Restoring Scotland’s bogs could provide refuge for rare wildlife
Restoring Scotland’s peatlands could help some of the country’s most threatened species recover and thrive, while playing a crucial role in reducing our climate emissions, says a leading environmental organisation.
WWF Scotland says these unique habitats provide homes for a diverse range of wildlife, including the red listed merlin, hen harrier and curlew as well as newts, frogs and lizards.
Scotland’s internationally important peatlands are under pressure due to burning and commercial extraction for peat-based compost.
These practices not only put the peat’s ability to store carbon at risk, but cause soil erosion, water quality issues and impact the unique wildlife they support, including several carnivorous plants that trap and eat insects, bog myrtle which have developed symbiotic relationships with bacteria to extract additional nitrogen and even plants that have developed adaptations to be able to ‘snorkel’ underwater using air filled sacs in their root system.
While the Scottish Government has recently announced a ban on burning on peatlands from next year, commercial peat extraction is still allowed across many lowland raised bogs, undermining efforts to restore these important sites and impacting the species that live there.
Dr Sheila George, Food and Environment Policy Manager at WWF Scotland, said: “The importance of our precious peatlands cannot be overestimated.
“When well looked after, they are natural carbon sinks, locking away climate-damaging carbon, and home to a wide range of wildlife, including bog specialist species such as the large heath butterfly, bog sun-jumper spider and sphagnum mosses.
“We’ve seen welcome progress to protect peatlands over the last year, including more funding for restoration and the recently announced ban on burning.
“But we also need to halt commercial extraction for horticulture – this is not compatible with Scotland’s climate or nature ambitions. And of course, we can all play our part by choosing peat-free compost.”
Dr Emma Goodyer, Programme Leader, IUCN UK Peatland Programme, said: “Scotland’s peatlands are hugely significant for biodiversity, fresh water and carbon storage.
“Yet 80 per cent of peatlands in Scotland are degraded. Restoring these mighty bogs would have benefits for people and nature – from the charismatic birds that make peatlands their home to the weird and wonderful insects and carnivorous plants that thrive there too.
“And with modern alternatives to peat-based compost now available, there really is no reason not to halt extraction and peat compost imports, invest in restoring our extracted lowland peatlands and avoiding the costly consequences of continuing to exploit them.”