A Peat-Filled Day On The Bog.....
I visited the ‘Raising the Bogs’ project site on a very sunny Saturday in March – along with my colleague and fellow GC project assistant, Laura - to take part in some peatland restoration. We joined the work party at White Moss, near Barrmill, where the group of volunteers had already installed several dams to help raise the water level back up to the bog’s surface, where it naturally would have been.
The bog had previously been drained, which prevents the sphagnum mosses from growing and, subsequently, means they don’t part-decompose over thousands of years to turn into peat! We learned about the different species of sphagnum, and the range of colours and shapes in which it can be found, thanks to the knowledge of Scott Shanks from the RSPB, who was leading the day's activities.
Re-wetting the bog at White Moss will not only allow the formation of peat - which is a powerful tool in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere - but it will create habitat for a range of specialised species. Despite only being on the bog for a few hours, we encountered a variety of species and interesting finds, ranging from countless seven-spot ladybirds to emperor moth cocoons.
Although a little distracted by the ladybirds, we managed to do some important bog maintenance while we were there! We helped to force the dams further into the bog (using a very heavy mallet) to ensure the water was trapped where it should be, and measured how far the water was from the bog’s surface using a measuring probe at different recording points situated across the bog.
On this particular bog, which is surrounded by farmland, there are a number of birch trees growing. Although birch trees are a native Scottish species, they are not encouraged in a bog setting as they drink up a lot of the water required to keep the bogs damp. So, armed with saws and loppers, we got to work removing some of the small birch trees on site, right down to their roots to prevent re-growth. We certainly felt like we’d had a workout the next day!
Overall, it was a fantastic day learning so much about this unique habitat. One of the best things we can all do to help our bogs to recover and flourish is to make sure we always use ‘peat-free’ compost in our gardens. By doing so, we will ensure the biodiversity of these unique places for years to come.
We certainly can’t wait to return to the site later in the year to see what progress has been made and count the different species existing on the bog in the summer months. And, of course, we can’t wait to see those ladybirds again…..
Iona & Laura, GC Project Assistants