Volunteers complete first phase of Loch Ness peatland restoration

A NATURAL Capital Laboratory (NCL) near Loch Ness has been testing and trialling nature positive solutions, technologies and methodologies, with the aim of measuring and monitoring the impact of nature restoration.

The NCL has now completed a first phase of its peatland restoration project in Scotland. By stemming the flow of water from ditches across the six-hectare peatland area, the team is hoping to restore the peatland and improve wetland vegetation types over time, preventing carbon from being released from the bog.

The Natural Capital Lab was set up in 2019 by the Lifescape Project, with landowners Emilia and Roger Leese, global infrastructure firm AECOM and the University of Cumbria. It supports nature restoration in a 50 hectare area of the Highlands, Scotland.

If the peatland project is successful, the partners are hoping to demonstrate to other landowners and land managers across the UK how they can use these techniques to preserve carbon stores.

Deborah Brady, Lead Ecologist for the Lifescape Project, said “Peatlands are a critically important habitat for nature. They are home to ground nesting birds, red deer, lizards, amphibians, insect-eating sundew plants, mountain hares, and a host of invertebrates, to name but a few.

“People in Scotland and also reliant on Peatlands. Much of Scotland’s drinking water is filtered through peatlands. Across Scotland they store more carbon than our forests which, as long as that carbon remains held in healthy peatlands, helps to protect against our rapidly changing climate.”

Improving the peatland habitat condition to encourage its natural carbon storage potential is the latest nature-based solution to be trialled on the site. The stemming of water on a small area has been achieved through the installation of specialist recycled plastic piles.

Work on the ground has been supported by volunteers from AECOM. Gert Vermeiren, Managing Director for AECOM Environment, Water and Energy – Europe & India, said, “Peatland restoration plays an important role in preventing carbon release. But it’s only with monitoring and building a picture based on detailed data that we can understand how to protect this key natural resource. The team at the Natural Capital Laboratory has been undertaking pioneering work on site, identifying, quantifying, and valuing the impacts of nature restoration. We hope this work will help other landowners make informed decisions about how they can manage their land, improve biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions.”

Landowners Emilia and Roger Leese said, “It was a thrill to discover we had a hitherto unknown peat bog at the NCL and we’re excited to see the changes as it recovers.”

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