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Case Studies > Peatland Restoration

Edinglassie Estate

Case Study Peatland Restoration Edinglassie Estate
Case Study Peatland Restoration Edinglassie estate is located to the west of Huntly in rural Aberdeenshire. The 4,600 acres, owned by the Hay family, are managed as a traditional mixed use upland estate. Around 1,000 acres are ploughable, and most of the rest is heather moorland. There is no large-scale forestry on the estate although there are large sitka plantations all around it, some of which have contributed to self-seeded tree growth on the moor. Malcolm Hay has ambitions to resuscitate the currently redundant grouse moor and his efforts represent the only genuine keepering effort in the wider area. As a result the moorland is a haven for ground-nesting birds and particularly important for waders.

Restoring an area of previously drained peatland had an important role to play in creating the thriving moorland habitat Malcolm is seeking to create, as well as providing the many benefits to the local community and wider society that comes from such work. The opportunity to kick start some restoration work through the Government’s initial round of Peatland Action funding in 2013/14, administered by SNH, was one he therefore seized.

Malcolm’s motivation to restore his peatland was a realisation that the historical draining of these areas had not brought about the productive benefits promised by public policy at the time. The heavily eroded grips acted as death traps for grouse chicks and the odd sheep, and the peat residue being washed into the local river catchment was highly damaging to juvenile salmonids and other aquatic species. There were also extensive areas of the moor where peat had been cut and removed by the local distilleries in the past, and the exposed peat banks and areas of bare peat were continuing to erode.

By restoring peatland it is possible to halt and put into reverse the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted from the bare peat, so that it becomes a carbon store again. Other benefits include the improvement of water quality as well as aiding natural flood management and enhancing the biodiversity of the moorland as a whole. Given all these advantages, both for the estate and for the local community and society in general, the decision to go ahead was not a difficult one.

The restoration involved filling in the grips entirely with peat taken from the site itself, and re-profiling the surface to allow selected pools of water to re-wet the previously desiccated areas surrounding the grips. Where the peat cutting had been undertaken, the heavily eroded peat hags were re-profiled to allow vegetation to cover the bare faces and areas of bare peat were reseeded with a heather and sphagnum moss-brash mixture.

It is evident from visiting the moor that the grip filling has worked extremely well, with the water table rising and no visible signs of where the grips were once located. The hag re-profiling has been similarly successful with vegetation now well established on previously bare peat. The reseeding has perhaps been less successful, although it is still early days for this type of intervention and better techniques are developing all the time. For the future Malcolm hopes to undertake more hag re-profiling, as well revisiting some of the heather and sphagnum reseeded areas to improve the re-vegetation process.

One of the most notable benefits of the work will have been to the salmonid population in the local river. Peat residues cause acidification of the water which destroys fish eggs, and the suspended particles lead to a turbidity effect which is detrimental to juvenile salmonids and other species. The restoration works will not only benefit the local angling economy, but will improve water quality in general over the long term, helping to meet public water quality standards as well as ameliorating local flooding issues downstream.
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