Supporting peatland policy for Welsh forests

Helping Forestry Commission Wales to develop a toolkit to support decisions on the future use of afforested peatland

News from Forest Research: October 2012

Deep peat shelf at Tarenig Forest showing poor forest growthAbout a quarter of Wales is made up of peatland, of which one seventh is deep peat that has been afforested. However, while some peatland is fertile, growing forests that produce timber and provide places for recreation, other areas are not and would be better used in other ways. Forest Research has been helping Forestry Commission Wales to develop a toolkit to support decisions on the future use of afforested peatland.

Deciding what function best suits a specific area is not straightforward and requires thorough assessment and an understanding of the land’s traits. Some 180 km² of Welsh peatland is currently afforested, but the less fertile parts of this would be better restored to open habitats, supporting wildlife and taking carbon from the atmosphere into long-term storage as peat.

The new toolkit is designed to help with this decision-making. It simplifies the field-based assessment into a practical tool that can be used with minimal training. We have already used the toolkit to assess deep peat areas in those forests indicated by a national assessment as being the top ten priority areas for restoration. In developing the toolkit, we produced an improved map of all peatland in Wales, compiled the first ever map of afforested deep peat for Wales, devised a computer-based national assessment that indicated the importance of different afforested peat areas, and provided a field-based assessment for foresters to use in making final decisions in the field.

To roll out the new toolkit, Forest Research will be helping to run a series of training events for foresters and woodland officers.

For more information contact Russell Anderson or read our report 'A Strategic Assessment of the Afforested Peat Resource in Wales' or visit the Forestry Commission Wales web page on woodlands and peat.