Yorkshire contains 70,000 hectares of peatland, of which the majority is in an unfavourable condition. 20% of the UK’s blanket bog is here in Yorkshire, making this a landscape deserving of protection.
Yorkshire Peat Partnership was established in 2009 and is managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. This project strives to restore these degraded landscapes for the benefit of people and wildlife. By March 2017, we had taken 35,000 hectares of blanket bog through restoration planning and begun works on the ground.
Since Yorkshire Peat Partnership formed, we have blocked 993km of grip and 81km of gully with peat dams - at an average spacing of about 8m, this is over 130,000 peat dams; planted 124,775 cottongrass plugs; inoculated 404ha with 93,850 harvested Sphagnum clumps; installed over 3000 timber sediment traps in 7km of grips and, in conjunction with heather bale dams and stone sediment traps, 100km of gullies.
Yorkshire's peatlands provide many benefits; some you experience directly yourself and some are harder to appreciate (but just as important).
Peat is formed by dead vegetation that is unable to fully decompose in the waterlogged environment. Because the plants' decomposition is incomplete, their carbon is not released into the atmosphere; it is instead locked up in peat. Globally, peatlands are the largest terrestrial store of carbon. The carbon stored in peat is estimated to be twice that found in forests.
Many of the rivers in Yorkshire have a ‘tea stained’ colour to them. This is in large part due to particulate carbon and dissolved carbon that is washed off from peatlands through erosion features such as gullies and man-made drains. These contaminants have to be removed before water is drinkable. Healthy blanket bog filters the water before it reaches the domestic supply.
Flooding has been a significant problem across Yorkshire, with the Environment Agency spending £24 million in damage repairs in 2015/16. The real cost is, however, estimated to be much higher. Man-made drains (grips) cause water to run off upland catchments quickly, which can put populated areas at risk in times of heavy rainfall. Blocking these grips and restoring blanket bog vegetation can ‘slow the flow’ to keep these important habitats wet and limit flooding further down the river catchment.
Blanket bogs are fantastic places to visit. You can enjoy exercise, fresh air and tranquility in stunning landscape and, with luck, see some unique wildlife.
Not only are peatlands a fantastic place for people and wildlife, they have a very important economic impact on the region. The ability to limit flooding in heavily populated regions could prevent £millions in damage repairs.
Functioning peatlands also reduce the amount water companies have to spend to clean contaminants. This reduced production cost could result in cheaper bills for customers like us.
Millions of people in the UK spend their leisure time in green/blue spaces. The main reasons to visit these places are the habitats and wildlife that can be found. This in turn, supports a range of local businesses including nature tourism, that may otherwise become isolated. Without intact habitats offering diverse experiences, people would not visit these rural locations.