Creating sustainable forested peatlands

Open, low-density woodland on wet, peaty site with forestry cleared around it.Summary

This PhD studentship project explores relationships between tree density and both biodiversity and greenhouse gas balance for low-density woodlands on deep peat. Its purpose is to find out more about the potential of converting afforested peatlands to ‘peatland edge woodlands’ to provide biodiverse habitats while at the same time helping to reduce climate change. By studying bogs with natural, semi-natural and planted woodland with a range of tree densities, the project aims to further our understanding of the benefits and trade-offs involved.

Research objectives

  • Compare plant biodiversity of peatland along woodland density gradients.
  • Compare greenhouse gas fluxes of peatlands along woodland density gradients.
  • Compare carbon stock of peatlands along woodland density gradients.
  • Identify any critical thresholds of woodland density for biodiversity and carbon sequestration/storage capacity.

Status

The project started in October 2017 and runs until September 2021. It is being undertaken mainly by PhD student Will Jessop, based at the University of York.

Contact

Will Jessop or Russell Anderson

Funders and partners

The project is a partnership between Forest Research, University of York, University of the Highlands and Islands and Scottish Natural Heritage. The project is funded by NERC industrial CASE studentship NE/P008925/I from the National Productivity Investment Fund, with supervisors’ time funded by the partners.

Forestry Commission Policy

Forestry policy relating to peatland habitats was set down in 2000. It encouraged only limited restoration because evidence of benefits was lacking.


In 2014, supplementary guidance for Scotland stated a presumption to restore habitats in protected sites, those affecting connectivity of EU Habitats Directive Annex 1 habitats and those where deforestation would reduce net greenhouse gas emissions. Elsewhere, on sites insufficiently productive for tree growth to compensate for greenhouse gas losses from the soil, it recommends creating low-density, low-intensity, 'peatland edge woodland', which retains some woodland benefits but avoids a net carbon loss. 'Deciding future management options for afforested deep peatland' gives more information.