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Restoring Scottish peatlands

14/12/2010

The Scottish Government today announced £200,000 of research funding to restore our peatland landscape.

Peatlands and other carbon-rich soils cover about 60 per cent of Scotland. They are valuable to our economy, culture and environment, and are important habitats for much of our wildlife.

It is vital these soils are managed correctly to help avoid unnecessary carbon losses that can add to our greenhouse gas emissions. Restoration of peatlands helps overall to retain carbon, rather than act as a source of emissions. The Scottish Government's overview on carbon rich soils has now been published for discussion. The paper sets out our current knowledge on the benefit of carbon rich soils, the trade offs between uses and the support that is already being provided for conservation and restoration.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Roseanna Cunningham said:

"Peatlands and other carbon rich soils provide valuable contributions to Scotland's environment, economy and landscape. Some 10,000 hectares of previously disturbed peatlands in Scotland have already been successfully restored - but we need to understand more about these complex carbon-rich soils and what they mean in practice.

"We need to improve our evidence base to allow us to make informed decisions, and as a result I am happy to announce research funding alongside the draft paper.

"Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the RSPB will share the £200,000 funding pot to research peatland restoration. In particular with SNH we are funding work to develop an inventory of Scotland's carbon-rich soils. We are also supporting RSPB's peatland restoration work at Forsinard to examine different approaches and benefits."

Peatland restoration is considered to have benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the current evidence on these benefits in Scotland is limited. To inform stakeholders discussions in the New Year, the Government has also published a discussion paper.

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said:

"It is hugely encouraging that the Scottish Government are increasing their efforts to protect, and restore our peatlands, which are amongst the most important wildlife habitats in the UK. We hope this will lead to more significant policy developments that recognise the wildlife, carbon, water quality and other major benefits that can be secured by looking after Scotland's peatlands in the appropriate manner. There is more carbon locked away in our peatlands than all the forests of the UK, and damaged peatlands emit prodigious quantities of greenhouse gases.

"RSPB Scotland is pleased to be leading the way in peatland restoration work and the science on the ground to better understand the carbon flux that occurs under different management. We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for their support of this work in the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland."