A significant and increasing proportion of upland blanket bog systems in northern England are no longer active (i.e. not forming new peat), due to a range of historic and current atmospheric and direct drivers of change including atmospheric pollution, climate change, burning, drainage, over-grazing and peat extraction. The North Pennines AONB contains the largest continuous blanket bog system in England. Within this, the project focus is on eight blanket bog habitat locations (totalling 65 810 ha) of which three are in designated Natura 2000 network sites (North Pennine Moors, Moor House Upper Teesdale, and Bowland Fells) and five are non-designated sites. According to Natural England, 90% of the priority for conservation, blanket bogs, habitat is in an unfavourable condition, with reference to the Habitats Directive, in the project area.
The aim of the Pennine PeatLIFE project is to demonstrate and evaluate geographically appropriate restoration techniques for the Annex I Habitats Directive priority habitat, blanket bogs (7130*), which are suited to the harsher climatic environment of northern England. The project will also develop and showcase a financial payment for ecosystem services (PES) mechanism under the UK Peatland Code. Pennine PeatLIFE will directly target the restoration of 1 353 ha of badly eroded blanket bogs habitat, both within Natura 2000 sites and in undesignated upland sites. In addition, it will demonstrate and evaluate Sphagnum-based methods to determine which provide the most cost-effective and widely applicable solution to blanket bog restoration; this can be used as the basis for a PES instrument. To achieve a viable PES, restoration techniques should be at a low enough cost to provide an appropriate level of incentive for landowners and managers to adopt blanket bog conservation measures.
The project will determine the most cost-effective PES restoration approach by: Demonstrating financially viable region-specific and sustainable Sphagnum-based restoration techniques for re-activating peat-forming blanket bog in the wetter, colder and higher altitude eroded bog systems of northern England; Demonstrating through 'Concept to Contract' trials, the UK Peatland Code, as a viable payment for ecosystem services (PES) approach for upland peatlands; Demonstrating new approaches, using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), to assess vegetation change as a proxy measure for monitoring the trajectory of change in ecosystem services benefits of blanket bog restoration and as a validation tool for the UK Peatland Code financial instrument; and Disseminating the demonstration activities to policymakers, landowners and managers, government agencies, NGOs, and other key stakeholders in the UK and across the EU.
Expected results: 1 353 ha of blanket bog re-activated; 32 km of eroding gullies blocked with sediment-trapping dams; 33 ha of bare peat, 30 km (15 ha) of re-profiled, un-vegetated hags/gullies, and 78 ha of peat in dendritic erosion areas are re-vegetated with bryophyte-rich brash, cotton grass plugs and a dwarf shrub/grass/cotton grass seed mix; Reduction in surface water flow across 33 ha of bare peat; 1 km of gullies/hags are re-profiled; Hydrological restoration of an 118 ha area of dendritic erosion; 17.7 ha of bare peat, 9.2 km (4.6 ha) of re-profiled, un-vegetated hags/gullies and 39.8 ha of bare peat in dendritic erosion recolonised with Sphagnum-rich brash; 3.4 ha of bare peat, 7.7 ha of bare peat in dendritic erosion recolonised with Sphagnum clumps and plugs; Establishment of 10 sites to evaluate the impact of Sphagnum cutting and clump harvesting; Avoided losses of 26 000 t/C02, plus 1 327.5 t/C02 sequestered by five years after the end of the project; 10 UK Peatland Code sites established with management plans; Peatland Code monitoring protocol trialled and evaluation reports produced; and Production of prototype Peatland Code agreement templates.