“We don’t want too much peat drying out…”

Kath Leys, of Scottish Natural Heritage, describes the problem in Fife of bogs drying out and how the majority of people would not notice or be that bothered.

Kath Leys: A problem that is much more widespread, than just Fife, is bogs drying out and there are quite a few raised bogs, in Fife, which are already drier than ideally they should be. They should be there supporting heather rather than bog and some of them have tree cover as well, which – combined with some dry weather- can lead to layers of peat drying and cracking and the loss of some of the sphagnum species on the surface and in some of the pools.

I don’t think the majority of people would notice or be that bothered if wetlands or peat lands dried and a lot of the designated species that are of interest, in Fife, are actually quite mobile. Quite a lot of them are wintering birds or breeding birds, or they are on the coast, so they are not that directly affected or they can move if they are.

We’ve not seen any effect, lasting decades or anything like that, from short-lived periods of dry weather. As I said, there is a trend in the bogs of drying, but that tends to be the way they have been drained, the way some of them have been planted with trees, some of them have just had trees encroach, but the fact that you are getting trees growing and heather growing on what should be a bog. It is not a short-term process obviously for trees to grow or whatever, so that’s indicative of much longer-term drying out and that is a problem that is much more widespread across Scotland.

The Scottish government is very keen to restore Scotland’s peat lands because of the relationship between peat and climate change. Peat is obviously a massive carbon store and we don’t want too much peat drying, because once it starts to dry and crack, it starts to release its carbon that’s in storage. So we have had a Peat land Action Scheme running for the past few years which is trying to help people effectively wet-up their bogs to try and retain the carbon in storage and encourage more peat to grow. So that involved removing trees and installing dams in places, if the bogs had previously been drained, to try and artificially recreate the wetting-up of domes and bogs. So we are working with the landowners to do that and there have been a number of places where that has happened, but in west Fife and Fife, not in East Fife.

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