New works supercharge precious peatland on England’s first ‘Super’ National Nature Reserve

Work to rewet and restore vital peatland habitats is underway on England’s first ‘super’ National Nature Reserve (NNR) in Purbeck, Dorset. The area was chosen as one of 16 sites for a £1 million Dorset Peat Partnership project seeking to reinstate 172 hectares (425 acres) of peatland, equivalent to the area of over 240 football pitches, across the county.

The Partnership is one of 23 restoration projects across England to benefit from an investment of over £50million by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to restore peatland across approximately 35,000 hectares in England by the end of this Parliament to help tackle climate change and boost biodiversity.

The first phase of the peatland restoration in Purbeck is taking place on Agglestone Mire and Greenlands Mire near Studland, both cared for by the National Trust. Heather bales, timber and bunds made of peaty soil will be used to create ‘leaky dams’ to block old ditches, which were originally dug to drain marshes for conifer plantations or to graze farm animals, to force the water to flow across the mire rather than down artificial channels.

David Brown, the National Trust’s lead ecologist in Purbeck, said: “Spreading the flow of water across the mires will create a wetter habitat where mosses and other rare plants like marsh saxifrage and tiny bog orchids can thrive. Under the acidic, waterlogged conditions, mosses and other plants never fully decompose, and over time they turn into new peat which keeps their carbon locked up instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.

“Purbeck’s peat forming mires have enormous significance for rare insects, plants and other wildlife, including bog hoverflies and birds such as skylarks, as well as one of our few long-term carbon storage habitats.”

Re-wetting the mires will also improve drought and fire resilience by holding more water in the landscape during the summer, as well as helping to prevent flooding by soaking up heavy rainfall. 

David Brown added: “A new wetland ecosystem should establish itself quite quickly, providing a lifeline for many rare species that have been under threat due to the disappearance of these boggy habitats across the country. This includes many species of invertebrates, like the nationally rare raft spider, which floats on the bog pools and is a very aggressive hunter.

“The insects in turn attract birds and mammals, including rare nightjars that nest on the heathland and feed over the mires, and even benefit some rare plant species that grow on the peat bogs, including carnivorous plants which rely on capturing and digesting insects to supplement their diet on the nutrient-poor bog. Many people don’t realise they grow in Dorset, but one is actually called the Godlingston Sundew, because it was originally found on Godlingston Heath in Purbeck.”

Another part of the project includes cutting back invasive purple moor grass, which has thrived in the face of recent droughts conditions and is threatening to smother other more delicate wetland species.

Led by Dorset Wildlife Trust, the key partners of the Dorset Peat Partnership are Natural England, Forestry England, the Environment Agency, BCP Council, the National Trust, the RSPB and one private landowner. The project has been funded by £787,320 from DEFRA’s Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme (NCPGS), and £262,500 from other partners.

The restoration works in Purbeck form part of a suite of projects led by the National Trust or on land cared for by the National Trust, that are supported by over £8million of funding through the NCPGS, with other works taking place at Holcombe Moor, the Peak District and the Great North Bog.

Caroline Thorogood, Senior National Consultant for Nature Conservation at the National Trust said: “The work in Purbeck is a crucial next step in delivering on our commitment to have all the degraded peatlands in our care under restoration by 2040.

“There is no time to waste on restoring these important habitats that so many unique species rely on, and we are absolutely delighted with the level of support from Natural England’s Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme that is making this important leap forward possible, both at National Trust places and beyond.”

Read more of the latest news from us

Future Waste magazine is available online today

Get updates on the go, follow us on Twitter

Post a Comment

Subscribe to our newsletter by using the form below.