Wetlands are vital for people and wildlife. c. Paul Barclay/Cumbernauld Living Landscape Today is World Wetlands Day, which is celebrated every year on 2 February…
Cumbernauld Living Landscape is working with North Lanarkshire Council to restore raised peat bogs at some of the town’s key greenspaces.
Peat bogs are one of the most important habitats on the planet, providing a range of benefits often described as “ecosystem services”. Despite forming over millennia, Britain has lost as much as 94% of its peatlands in the past 100 years. When degraded or destroyed these unique habitats are lost and carbon is released into the atmosphere.
There is around 3724 ha of lowland raised and intermediate bog across North Lanarkshire, representing 10% of Scotland’s coverage. Six sites in the region have SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status. North Lanarkshire Council’s Lowland Raised Bog Peatland Action Plan aims to restore and enhance the region’s peat bogs in order to boost biodiversity and tackle the climate crisis.
There are several areas of raised peatbog in the Cumbernauld area, remnant pockets of what used to be a much larger interconnected wetland landscape. They have become degraded as the interconnected landscape has been lost through development. Their history is also linked to the town’s agricultural past, with much of the degradation caused by drainage and peat removal for use as a garden fertiliser, and to make the land more suitable for livestock farming. In more recent times our bogs have also been subjected to fire damage due to anti-social behaviour.
Restoration work will centre around helping the bog retain water, allowing native peatland species to recover or recolonise and enabling the bogs to become a carbon store once again. This is achieved by removing young trees and plants that would otherwise dry out this rare habitat. To re-wet the bog small dams or bunds will be installed to reduce the volume of water leaving the bog.
Brilliant Peatbogs projects are part of our Improving Habitats and Access work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Peatland is a unique habitat that is formed over thousands of years when plants become water-logged and their decay is slowed by a lack of oxygen. This process creates a very wet, acidic environment.
‘Raised’ peat bogs like those found around Cumbernauld are the most common kind found in Central Scotland and were formed by rainwater. The peat they store can be as much as 10m deep. They tend to form in hollows, but are called raised bogs because the specialised mosses that thrive in them will form a dome as they grow upwards.
This wet, acidic habitat is home to a range of rare and highly specialised plant species, often so specialised that they are not found anywhere else. Sphagnum mosses, cotton-grass, cranberry and sundew in turn create ideal homes for a range of rare insects including butterflies and moths, as well as reptiles and bird species.
Healthy peat bogs are 90% water, and the species that thrive in them – namely sphagnum mosses – act as a sponge, creating a natural flood prevention system.
To the planet
Peat bogs will play a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis: the decaying organic matter that peat comprises of acts as a huge carbon store – 1.7 billion tonnes in Scotland – far more than trees. When peat bogs are damaged they release carbon into the atmosphere, it is so important that we look after our remnant peatbogs so this doesn’t happen.
Three locations have been selected for peat bog restoration work: Abronhill, Sparrow Bog and Broadwood.
These three bogs are not just significant from an environmental perspective, they can also be considered “urban” peat bogs due to their unusual proximity to people’s homes. This means that their restoration will also create improved natural places for locals to learn about and enjoy.
At Abronhill most noticeable change will be scrub removal. The bogs will become wetter and may develop small bog pools, these are fantastic for dragonflies. At first the restored bog may appear ‘bare’ but given time it will become a haven for a rich variety of plants, attracting wildlife including butterflies, moths and birds.
Many peat bogs around the country are popular wildlife-watching destinations, and fantastic places to walk alongside, relax and reconnect with nature. Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve in Stirlingshire is a great place to visit if you would like to experience a raised peat bog at its best.
A healthy peat bog habitat will not typically have trees growing directly on it, but trees sometimes find their way to a bog and are able to grow if the bog has become unnaturally dry. If the trees are not removed they will continue the drying process and further degrade the bog.
Our restoration work will primarily involve removing low-lying scrub that has grown over the bogs in the years since they were drained. In some areas there may be a small amount of tree-thinning required to enable the bogs to fully recover. Trees growing in areas surrounding the bog will not be affected.
Nearby homes will not be affected by the restoration work. Where dams and bunds are installed, the work will be carried out with sensitivity to nearby homes to ensure any existing flooding problems are not exacerbated. Scrub removal will also help make the area less susceptible to arson.
Our bog restoration work is all scheduled to take place this year. Each bog restoration project should be completed within the course of a few weeks.
While much of the heavy work will be carried out by contractors, our volunteers will be stepping up to help out, particularly with scrub removal. You could get involved by joining our Nature Ninjas volunteer groups, who meet regularly to tackle various conservation challenges across Cumbernauld’s greenspaces.
If you’d like to help with peatland restoration across Central Scotland you could also join Butterfly Conservation’s Bog Squad volunteers.
Help from home
There’s another way you can help preserve peatlands both in Scotland and abroad — by only using peat-free compost in your garden. Peat is a common ingredient in commercially available composts, and amateur gardeners account for 58% of peat use. Many ‘multi-purpose’, ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘organic’ composts can contain as much as 70-100% peat! However, these days there are lots of peat-free alternatives widely available. If your local garden centre or supermarket doesn’t stock peat-free compost, let them know there’s a demand for it!