Volunteers plant 40,000 plugs and 4,000 handfuls of Sphagnum to restore Dove Stone peat bogs

Sphagnum moss at Dove Stone image by Callum Goff

Volunteers help to transform Dove Stone's peat bogs, tackling climate change and reducing flood risk to the local area. News item contributed by Callum Goff, RSPB.

We made it! After what’s felt like hundreds of cold, wet days of hard graft in the moors, we’ve finally reached our target of planting 40,000 plugs and 4,000 handfuls of sphagnum moss. This work, undertaken by our dedicated and hardworking volunteers, will help keep the bog at Dove Stone good and wet. It will soak up lots of rain, keeping our peat healthy so it can store lots of carbon and reduce the risk of wildfire. It will slow the flow of water off the bog too, helping keep our valleys safe from flood damage in the future.

This project has been made possible by the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. Accessed through the Greater Manchester Environment Fund.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund was developed by Defra and is being delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England, the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission.

Handful of Sphagnum

Handful of Sphagnum image by Callum Goff

But why sphagnum?

Well, it’s something of a super moss. Also known as bog moss, sphagnum is an ecosystem engineer - it creates the conditions it needs to thrive. It can hold up to 20 times its own weight in water, soaking up all the rain to create a waterlogged bog. The wetter it gets, the more the sphagnum grows! This waterlogging is key to peat formation, as it prevents dead plant matter from breaking down and releasing carbon into the atmosphere. Sphagnum also produces sphagnan, an acid that further slows decomposition, making its carbon storage credentials greater still. Furthermore, this amazing moss provides a home for methane consuming bacteria, meaning any methane released from the peat is oxidize and stored as carbon. Fantastic!

At Dove Stone, we plant lots of sphagnum, utilizing a few different methods. This season, we’ve planted 40,000 sphagnum plugs: nursery propagated moss we buy from a specialist producer. BeadaMoss, based in Leicestershire, supply peatland restoration projects around the UK and Europe with sphagnum moss. We also translocate sphagnum from donor sites on the reserve. Our team will squelch their way through the bog, searching for a nice mossy spot. We’ll then fill our sacks with big handfuls of the stuff, ready for planting in an area of need. Luckily, sphagnum is very resilient and can easily regenerate after harvest, meaning we have a year-on-year supply. We have also gone on missions to bogs in Wales and Scotland to harvest sphagnum we can translocate to Dove Stone, giving us greater genetic diversity and thus resilience to disease.

Close up of Sphagnum moss

Close up of Sphagnum moss image by Callum Goff

We may be finished with our Green Recovery Challenge Fund sphagnum planting work, but the mossy fun never stops at Dove Stone: we’re straight onto the next sphagnum project. It can be hard work in wild, cold, and windy conditions, but this doesn’t faze our hardy volunteers.

We have fun and nothing beats the feeling of putting your feet up after a wild day in the Moors, knowing you’ve done something positive. So, if you’re interested in volunteering with us to help with this important work, please contact callum.goff@rspb.org.uk. We hold regular volunteer work parties on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Discover our other Green Recovery Challenge Fund projects:

 

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