Successful peatland restoration on Rum nature reserve

The scenic Kinloch Glen on Isle of Rum NNR, where the peatland restoration has taken place. Photograph: John MacPherson/SNH

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A project to restore peatlands on Rum National Nature Reserve (NNR) is seeing quick results as well as helping to tackle climate change and improve biodiversity.

The project in Kinloch Glen was recently completed with £30,000 of funding from the Peatland Action Fund.

More than 17 hectares of peatland habitat have been put on the road to restoration, including blocking more than 10km of man-made ditches to reduce their draining effect and help restore natural processes.

Peatlands, or areas dominated by peat, cover more than 20 per cent of Scotland, and much of our drinking water flows through these catchments making healthy peatlands crucial for drinking water quality at source.

Peatlands also hold most of Scotland’s land based carbon store. They are estimated to hold the equivalent of 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions. It is also estimated that 80 per cent of Scotland’s peatlands are damaged.

Lesley Watt, NatureScot’s Rum NNR manager, said: ‘We were really keen to restore this area of peatland to improve the condition of the habitats on Rum.

‘It’s amazing to see how quickly the water pools behind the new peat dams. We are looking forward to the dragonflies and damselflies hovering around these new pools in the summer.

‘This area is close to the main track onto the NNR, so a walk up the glen is a good place to see this peatland restoration and also golden eagles and red-throated divers, both of which breed in good numbers on the reserve.’

The restoration area was in deep peat, up to 3.5m, which had been drained before the site was a NNR. The work included blocking the old drains to raise the water table and encourage the growth of peatland vegetation, especially the principle bog builder sphagnum moss, and allow the peatland to function more naturally.

Drains were blocked with peat dams every 10m, using specialist machinery to minimise the damage to the bog surface. Work was carried out by Highland Conservation Ltd.

The restoration of peatlands can deliver a range of other benefits too, such as helping to manage the risk of wildfires. Learning from the accidental wildfire in 2018, natural solutions are being used to reduce the risk of wildfires on Rum.

This peatland restoration in Kinloch Glen will be key in reducing the risk and spread of wildfires on the island due to its strategic location near to important habitats and the local community in Kinloch village.

Provided by the Scottish Government Peatland Action funding primarily provides support for on-the-ground restoration across Scotland. It is delivered through a network of five partner organisations: NatureScot, Forestry and Land Scotland, Scottish Water, and Scotland’s two National Park Authorities; Cairngorms National Park Authority and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

Photograph: The scenic Kinloch Glen on Isle of Rum NNR, where the peatland restoration has taken place. Photograph: John MacPherson/SNH