The effects of peatland restoration by deforestation on water quality

peatland restoration fieldSummary

Increasing attention is being given to forest removal on peatland for habitat restoration and protection of soil carbon stocks. We are investigating the effects of large-scale deforestation at a number of sites in Scotland because of concerns over the impact of such a rapid change in forest cover on water quality, particularly in terms of phosphate and dissolved organic carbon losses.

The results will help us understand the effects of restoration on water quality and potential impacts on sensitive species such as the freshwater pearl mussel and salmonids

Our collaborative studies are being conducted at a number of sites across Scotland and include a long-term study of at a large raised bog in central Scotland  and large-scale restoration in the Flow Country, the largest expanse of blanket peat in Europe.

Research objectives

Understand the effects of peatland restoration on water quality by undertaking monitoring before and after restoration.

Interpret the results in terms of potential impacts upon aquatic ecology and the carbon balance.

Assess whether there is a need for improved guidance on best practice for forest removal during peatland restoration.

Results so far

Preliminary results indicate that phosphate and dissolved organic carbon concentrations increased following felling but differences between the sites reflect local conditions and the management techniques employed. Further detail is provided in the project specific pages.


The Flanders Moss project began in 2008 whilst the blanket peatland restoration projects began in 2017; the projects are ongoing

The results will assess the need for improved guidance on best practice for forest removal for peatland restoration


Nadeem Shah

Funders and partners

  • Forestry Commission
  • Forest Enterprise Scotland
  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
  • University of Leeds
  • Strath Halladale Partnership

This research is primarily funded by the Forestry Commission delivering resilient forests research programme and through Service Level Agreements with Forestry Commission Scotland and Forest Enterprise Scotland.

Forestry Commission policy

Protection of the water environment is a key element of sustainable forestry and this research directly supports the Forestry Commission policy of achieving sustainable forest management in the UK.

In addition Country Forestry Strategies ( Scotland , England, and Wales ) identify the need to protect and enhance water resources with the water related aims based on the EU Water Framework Directive (2000), which establishes the principal framework for protecting and improving the water environment.