A new short Report by Scottish Renewables (a lobbying body for the renewables industry in Scotland) highlights steps which three renewable energy businesses have been taking to restore damaged peatlands in Scotland. The Report is illustrated with practical examples of work carried out to offset past damage to peatlands by forestry, overgrazing and poor drainage.
Peatlands are formed when plants die and partially decompose in acidic and waterlogged conditions. Because the plants do not fully decay, carbon remains trapped. This is important in Scotland, where more than 20% of total land area is peatland and it is estimated that there are 1,600 million tonnes of stored carbon, equivalent to 140 years of Scotland’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions. Healthy peatlands play a vital role in carbon storage and combating the effects of climate change. Degraded peatland on the other hand has the potential to cause considerable wider climatic damage and it is estimated that much of Scotland’s peatland is degraded.
The Report, entitled “Wind Power and Peatland: Enhancing Unique Habitats” - https://www.scottishrenewables.com/assets/000/001/257/A4_PEAT_DOC_V10_original.pdf?1606298057 details how a combination of measures, including construction of peat dams, ditch blocking, livestock reduction and forest removal (to reduce the drying effect of trees) plus a reduction in muirburn by RWE, SSE Renewables and Scottish Power Renewables on different projects has helped to arrest peat degradation.
The Report shows how a combination of measures may help to meet NatureScot’s aim (Scottish Natural Heritage was renamed NatureScot on 24th August 2020) that by 2030 peatlands will be “in a healthy state and widely regarded as resilient” and that “Funding for stewardship will have extended from public to private sources”. The Scottish Government has a budget of £20m for 20/21 for peatland restoration and has committed to investing an additional £250m over the next 10 years towards implementation of a National Peatland Plan so we are likely to see further initiatives like this from the renewables industry but also from other bodies and organisations involved in rural land management.