Transforming the backbone of England – from bare black peat to lush green vegetation

18 September 2015
Bare peat has been transformed at Bleaklow

The five-year MoorLIFE project has protected huge areas of the iconic moorland landscape across the Peak District and South Pennines by successfully revegetating vast areas of bare peat.

Newly-released figures show that more than 90 per cent of the bare peat targeted has been transformed thanks to work undertaken by the conservation experts at Moors for the Future Partnership as part of the EU LIFE+ Programme-funded project, MoorLIFE.

Reintroducing grasses and plants has helped to stabilise the exposed and damaged bare peat and prevent further erosion, which protects the internationally important active blanket bog. This is home to some very specialised species, including carnivorous plants such as sundews, and large numbers of breeding birds including short-eared owls, golden plover and dunlin.

Research and monitoring regularly carried out at more than 228 sites at Bleaklow, near Glossop, and at Turley Holes and Rishworth Common, in West Yorkshire, has demonstrated the changes would not have occurred without the extensive work that has been carried out.

Chris Dean, Partnership Manager for the Moors for the Future Partnership, said: “Our five year monitoring programme tells us how these works have quickly transformed bare peat into a carpet of green vegetation.

“As part out of our conservation works we have planted by hand 200,000 moorland plants such as cotton grass, bilberry, cloudberry and crowberry; spread a total of 1.5 billion Sphagnum moss fragments and planted 30,000 Sphagnum plug plants which will eventually form new peat on these internationally important areas of blanket bog.

“Results from our monitoring show that we have successfully started off the regeneration of these beautiful moors and we are confident that in years to come these special places will continue to flourish - which is good news for all of us as it will increase wildlife, water quality, carbon storage and flood mitigation.”

The scientific data collected, supported by photographic evidence, is able to demonstrate the success of the project at the sites situated along the Pennine Way.

Science Project Manager Rachael Maskill, who has been co-ordinating this science work for the last five years said: “We have been monitoring Black Hill for 10 years - this vital new data gives an indication of how newly revegetated sites can be expected to develop long after the end of MoorLIFE.

“We have seen an increase in grasses and in the number of important blanket bog species such as common heather, cotton grass sedges and feather mosses in all of the sites where conservation work has taken place. By contrast our control sites, where no works have taken place, show little change to areas of bare peat.”

The huge volume of data collected under the MoorLIFE project, supported by €5 million from the EU LIFE+ fund and €1.7 million by partners, will continue to be analysed to help conservationists and scientists learn more about the development of vegetation communities.

For more about the MoorLIFE Project go to http://www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk/moorlife

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