The Nature Ninjas have been swinging their mattocks down at Abronhill bog and Ravenswood bog, removing birch regeneration. Now you might be wondering why conservation volunteers are removing native trees but there is a very good reason for what we are doing.

Trees dry out peat bogs by sucking the water out of the ground through their roots, Peatlands are a unique habitat that forms over thousands of years. They are home to many specially adapted plants and animals that you won’t find anywhere else. One example is the amazing coloured carpets of sphagnum moss – the building blocks of the bog. These sponge-like mosses thrive in wet, acidic conditions. When they die the water they sit in keeps out the oxygen that makes most plants rot down and disappear, so the dead plant material builds up and eventually forms peat. And that’s not all. Bogs are also home to a group of carnivorous plants called sundews which supplement their diet with insects due to low nutrients in the soil. Beasts of the boglands include large heath butterflies, emperor moths, wading birds such as snipe, and venomous adders (although these shy snakes only bite as a last resort).

There are over 30 species of sphagnum moss in the UK and they come in many different colours – © Katie Brown/Scottish Wildlife Trust

Peat bogs are critical not only for biodiversity but for climate change. Globally, peatlands store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests, yet they continue to be drained and dug up, often just to supply garden centres with bags of cheap compost. Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. But despair not – there is something we can do. The Peat Free Campaign encourages gardeners, as the title suggests, to go peat-free. This means buying only compost and plants that are labelled as peat-free, or alternatively making your own compost. Composted wood materials such as bark and sawdust are great alternatives. If we all do our bit, together we can make a difference. Let’s keep our bogs beautiful #peatfree


Katie Brown