Foulshaw Moss peatland restoration

Foulshaw Moss

© Julia Garner

Cumbria Wildlife Trust's survey of bogs in the Lake District confirmed that most have been damaged, prompting  action to restore peatland.  Almost all English peatlands have been damaged by drainage, heavy grazing, regular burning, cultivation, forestry or other management.

When peatland is damaged it is no longer waterlogged and the specialist plant species that make the peatland, such as Sphagnum mosses, cannot survive. Once these plant species are lost bare peat areas can form and the surface dries, crumbles and cracks; rapidly eroding during severe weather.

Restoring the balance of nature benefits people and wildlife, as peatland are hugely important in a number of different ways.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust has been restoring upland peatlands since 2001 and we have detailed some of the restoration projects we have carried out such as the one below. Links to further peatland restoration projects can be found at the bottom of the page.

Where:  Foulshaw Moss

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve supports a large area of lowland raised bog, two parcels of oak woodland (Ulpha Wood and Ulpha Fell) and nine fields located directly adjacent to the bog.

Area:  3,596,700 m2

Owner:  Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Conservation status:  Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Area of Conservation

Cost of restoration:  £1,124,682

The problem:  The peatland has been eaten away by peripheral domestic peat cutting, agricultural claim and drainage but does still retain an intact uncut dome of peat. Historically, Foulshaw Moss was mainly open landscape. However, the Forestry Commission purchased it in 1949, made a significant attempt to drain it and planted it with conifer trees. Historical peat cutting, drainage and tree growth led to unstable and lowered water levels across the peatland, particularly at its edges. Water table data suggests that water levels were too low and fluctuated widely throughout the year. Dry conditions extended over large areas, particularly during the summer months. Lowering the water table lets air into the peat which begins a process of collapsing and rotting, thus releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

What Cumbria Wildlife Trust did:  Foulshaw Moss was purchased in 1999. Initially, a large area of conifers was removed from the centre, leaving a ring of trees around the edge, largely on former peat cuttings. Drains were blocked in the open central area and rhododendron, birch, and pine were removed. In the second phase of work, 800,000 m2 of conifers were removed from the periphery of Foulshaw Moss, 9,177 m of peat cut edges were reprofiled and 494,000 m2 of bunds were built. 265,700 m2 of fen habitat were also created.

Benefits:  Removing trees and blocking drains and ditches has raised the water level of the peatland. Seasonal fluctuations are no longer causing it to degrade and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over time, as the peatland recovers, it will begin to cover in sphagnum moss, which will take in carbon dioxide as it degrades very slowly and forms peat.

Benefitting species:  Plant species include vielwort (liverwort), bog sedge, and lesser twayblade. Invertebrate species include large heath butterfly, argent and sable moth, bog bush cricket and 13 species of dragonfly. Bird species include tree pipit, stone chat, meadow pipit, reed bunting, skylark and grasshopper warbler. Hobby is a summer visitor as is wintering hen harrier. There is a large population of red deer. Reptiles and amphibians are found in abundance, including adder, slow worm, common lizard, palmate newt, common frog and common toad.

Carbon locked in:  5,392 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year*

*Figures are calculated using government methodology for estimating carbon dioxide loss from damaged peatlands. Figures for restoring from forestry are not available, therefore restoration from grassland is used as proxy.