The study by Moors for the Future Partnership was carried out to discover the most effective methods of planting various species of sphagnum. Based on the findings, the Partnership can tailor delivery of conservation works to bring maximum benefit to the uplands.

Reintroducing sphagnum moss to upland moors can help to stop erosion, which in turn helps to reverse the loss of carbon into the atmosphere. Sphagnum also creates a wetter environment on the moors, which helps to improve water quality and increase biodiversity. One of the key aims of the MoorLIFE2020 project is to reintroduce sphagnum into areas where it has been lost over time; our science team use commercially-grown small plants, or “plugs” to achieve this. We have studied the results of our work over 16 months; the study took place in bogs dominated by three different moorland plant species: cottongrass, purple moor grass and heather. The growth of the plugs was recorded in summer 2020.

On average, the samples increased in size by about eight times their original area. They were especially successful in areas dominated by cottongrass, but grew well in all the sites. One particular species of sphagnum, known as S. cuspidatum, grows well in pools of water at the bog’s surface; this technique will help to shape our future work.

The conclusions drawn from the study are that the kind of plants found in an area of bog might have an impact on different types of sphagnum; other factors, such as altitude and monthly rainfall, also need to be taken into account. The findings of the report will guide the Partnership’s knowledge and guidance about sphagnum planting techniques, to ensure our conservation techniques bring maximum benefit to the uplands.

Read the report here