Ground-breaking carbon audit demonstrates benefit of moorland conservation.  

As the international spotlight starts to focus on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris a ground-breaking carbon audit, demonstrating the carbon emission benefits from conservation work to protect active blanket bog, has been published.

The audit, by the Moors for the Future Partnership, has calculated that the CO2 emissions produced by the work, to protect 2,500 hectares of Peak District and South Pennine moorland, are 37 times less than the amount of CO₂ emissions that were lost annually from these areas of bare peat.

Once works to stabilise damaged peat and re-introduce vegetation are complete at a particular site the benefits, in terms of reduced emissions, continue year on year.

Across a five-year programme of capital works for the MoorLIFE project, the emissions generated, even taking into account the extensive use of helicopters to transport materials to the remote locations, are just a fraction of the amount saved.

Blanket bog is an internationally important wetland habitat, providing a protective layer that covers areas of deep peat, a large store of carbon, but more than 200 years of industrial pollution has left areas of peat exposed and vulnerable to erosion and the threat of wildfires.

The report illustrates the vital role protecting blanket bog plays in the fight against climate change, as active blanket bogs create peat and store carbon rather than releasing it into the atmosphere and water supply.

Further calculations reveal that since it was set up by the Peak District National Park Authority in 2003, the conservation efforts of the Partnership have stabilised over 480 hectares of bare and eroding peat, and prevented the loss of carbon equivalent to over 2,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

Moors for the Future’s partnership manager Chris Dean said: "Our pioneering work to produce what we believe is the first carbon audit of moorland conservation has given us the tools to prove the benefit of protecting active blanket bog.

"We estimate that the amount of annual carbon loss prevented by our work is equivalent to the CO2 emissions caused by driving more than 7 million miles in an average car.

"Blanket bogs across the Peak District and South Pennines have been devastated over the years by pollution from the industrial revolution, creating a climate catastrophe for the UK.

"We are proud to be able to prove that our work can turn a climate catastrophe into an important solution to the problems caused by climate change."

Rachael Maskill, MoorLIFE monitoring officer who produced the report said: "This carbon audit enables us to calculate the remarkable contribution that these moorlands are making towards meeting international climate change targets.

"Our work is carried out in remote, inaccessible locations and often during the worst winter weather to ensure that we don’t disturb breeding birds, so helicopters play a vital part.

"This carbon audit has shown that the debt of carbon emissions built up during our work is repaid over and over as these iconic landscapes are protected into the future."

Building on more than 10 years of monitoring and research, including an innovative report* on how moorland can help protect communities from flooding, the partnership’s team will repeat the carbon audit on future work carried out by the partnership.

This includes the MoorLIFE 2020 project - the largest ever EU award to a UK nature conservation project, which recently received €16 million funding, to protect active blanket bog.

The full report on the carbon audit can be downloaded here.