Saving Greater Manchester’s bogs

Dove Stone

Saving Greater Manchester’s blanket bogs

As part of the Greater Manchester Environment Fund, a new project is underway to save the peatbogs of our city region.

The Greater Manchester Environment Fund (GMEF) has been successful with a bid to Green Recovery Challenge Fund (GRCF), which will support environmental organisations in delivering key nature recovery projects. These projects will help to achieve key results against the Greater Manchester Local Nature Recovery Network Strategy.

The RSPB, along with dedicated volunteers from the local community, and partners United Utilities, are working hard to restore peatland in the Dove Stone area of Saddleworth. The process will raise the water table, reintroduce missing keystone species like sphagnum moss, and with support from Natural England, will trial an entirely new restoration technique for stabilizing peat edges with willow stakes.

Over the last two hundred years, peat has been degraded at an unprecedented rate across the Greater Manchester city region. Rapid industrialisation, burning, pollution and other factors are believed to have jointly contributed to the damage seen. Healthy peatlands help with both air and water quality, as well as being a vital carbon store. I In its current state, and with frequent fires in recent years, our peatlands are now emitting large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, rather than capturing it.

Achieving resilience in a peat-based landscape is a long-term process, but projects like the GRCF help move the landscape that everyone loves another step along the journey to recovery. Not only will we see improved carbon capture and water quality, but we will also see much more and varied wildlife, and increased opportunities for people to interact with a more robust landscape.

To date, the RSPB has reintroduced sphagnum mosses? to over 700Ha of the 4000Ha site and have installed approximately 15,000 dams in erosion gullies. Degradation from overgrazing, burning and atmospheric pollution has been occurring for hundreds of years; the organisation is only in year 15 of a partnership with landowners United Utilities to restore the bog to the point where it starts to benefit local people and the environment.

The project so far has had an excellent start, showing positive results for biodiversity and water quality, but momentum is needed to keep restoration going. The successful GRCF bid will keep the project underway!

The continued work will initiate a positive domino effect, resulting in an increase in biodiversity. By blocking more gullies, the water tables will rise. Reintroduction of sphagnum mosses and willows will increase the diversity of plant communities. This, in turn, will increase insect populations which will benefit birds including golden plover, curlew, red grouse and dunlin. Healthy peat bogs act like a giant water-filtering sponge, so other benefits from conservation efforts include reduced downstream flood risk and reduced chemicals and treatment costs for raw water. It also provides reductions in

carbon emissions from degraded peat, better resilience against fires and droughts, and increased connections to the local community for increased health and wellbeing.

The RSPB has an international and domestic award-winning team and partnership with United Utilities (Natura 2000 award in 2016 and CIEEM award in 2018) for pioneering partnership blanket bog restoration and will continue to work hard over at RSPB Dove Stone.

Contact the RSPB team at Dove Stone if you want to join in as a volunteer - dovestone@rspb.org.uk.