Peatland restoration on the Cheviot
A major peatland restoration project covering an area roughly the size of 241 football pitches, has just got underway on the summit of the Cheviot, the highest peak in Northumberland National Park to help in the fight against climate change.
England’s peatlands play a significant role in storing carbon and are capable of capturing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide, as well as being wonderful habitats in their own right. Erosion caused by weather, grazing or land use can expose the peat and lead to the release of carbon into atmosphere.
The project is one of the largest peatland restoration projects in the North of England covering 151 hectares and will prevent an estimated 585 tonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere each year, once restored – equivalent to the greenhouse gases emitted by an average car travelling 1.43 million miles.
North of England Peat Partnership
The restoration on the summit of the Cheviot is the latest project to be undertaken as part of The North of England Peat Partnership, which in 2018 secured funding from Defra as part of a £10 million government peatland grant scheme. This project helps to deliver a specific action identified in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and is an example of how the work of Northumberland National Park Authority is helping to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.
Following considerable preparation and planning due to the remoteness of the area and sensitivity of the site, work has just started. The summit plateau, usually home to a few hardy walkers, species of birds and insects, will have specialist diggers working to reshape the peat haggs to enable plants to grow and prevent further erosion. Later in the year native plants, including heathers, cotton-grass and sphagnum mosses will be harvested from the valley below and flown up by helicopter to be planted and help protect the bare peat.
Gill Thompson, ecologist at Northumberland National Park, explains: “Peatlands are the largest terrestrial store for carbon, more than all the trees around the world combined, and it is therefore vital to keep these in good condition to reduce carbon release. On healthy peatlands, the plants absorb carbon out of the air and lock it up, but when the peat is bare, carbon is released into the atmosphere. Through this project, we aim to help native plants get established and then continue to grow in what are quite harsh conditions.