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Friday, June 21, 2024

Irish Foresters to Learn From Visit to Scottish Peatland Restoration Sites

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Forestry and Land Scotland’s (FLS) north region peatland team has played host to a group of foresters and contractors from Ireland who were on a knowledge-sharing trip.

Coordinated by NatureScot, the visit allowed the group from Coillte, Ireland’s state forest service, to spend time at several FLS peatland restoration sites and discuss issues ranging from the techniques employed to how the work impacts and benefits sensitive habitats. 

Scottish contractors with an interest in forest to bog work also attended the information day.

This was to support the ambitions of Peatland ACTION – the national programme to restore peatlands across Scotland – to increase the number of contractors available for this specialised work.

The visit came in the week celebrating World Peatland Day (2 June) and following the Scottish Government’s announcement that the average rate of peatland restoration has more than doubled in the last two years.

With more than 100 projects across the country, 2023-24 saw 10,360 hectares restored – the highest amount achieved in a single year.

FLS Peatland Restoration Forester Tim Cockerill who helped host the visit said:

“Forestry in Scotland and Ireland is very similar in terms of the types of sites and peatlands that are looked after.

“Visits like this allow each organisation to share successes, challenges and lessons learned.”

“Scotland and Ireland have a large proportion of Europe’s blanket bog and both countries recognise these habitats are in poor condition and in need of restoration to absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they should.

“The techniques FLS have pioneered and developed such as ‘stump flipping and ground smoothing’ – which is less invasive and better protects any existing peatland vegetation on our sites leading to faster recovery – have delivered impressive results at landscape scale here in Scotland.

“The method would suite the similar peat characteristics, modifications, slopes and hydrology found in Ireland.”

Coillte has worked in partnership with the forestry organisations in Scotland, Wales, and England for a number of years where it has helped fund and define research as well as share experience and expertise.

Coillte Western Peatlands project manager Dr Dermot Tiernan said:

“Coillte have identified a forest to bog potential of 30,000 ha to be achieved by 2050, and we are encouraged to see that this ambition can be achieved when we look to Scotland. 

“The results in Scotland at sites where there has been ground smoothing are very impressive and before we started our restoration work we wanted our contractors – who we see as central to our success – to gain a better understanding of the techniques used.”

NatureScot’s Peatland ACTION Workforce Planning and Development Manager, Becky Shaw said:

“Skills-sharing activities such as this give the Peatland ACTION partnership a great opportunity to showcase the range of expertise in different peatland restoration techniques across our delivery partners.

“We are always happy to share our experiences and help support peatland restoration beyond Scotland to help protect and restore peatland areas as a vitally important nature-based solution to climate change and for the wider range of benefits they bring.”

In the recent trip to Scotland the delegation visited peatland restoration sites in Sutherland along with Gow Moss near Fochabers in Moray.

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