The Power of Peatlands: The socio-economic potential of peat restoration in Scotland

Peatland Restoration carbon credits socio economic nature based solutions

In a world of rapid biodiversity loss, rising temperatures and extreme weather events, Scotland stands strong to tackle The Climate Crisis.

Extensive global research has built a greater understanding of wetlands and their importance as a catalyst to reaching  net zero targets. Peat wetland restoration is now at the forefront of combatting climate change in Scotland, at great scale.

 
For instance, the Scottish Government have committed £25million through Peatland Action funding per annum over the next 10 years . This will be injected into projects all over Scotland, with the aim to restore 25,000 ha of eroding peatlands annually, and 250,000 ha by 2030.  This means that Peat Wetland Restoration in Scotland alone will be valued at a minimum £250 million by 2032. This funding highlights that the Scottish Government is prioritising the use of this powerful nature-based solution to tackle climate change. 

Alba Montane contractors restoring an eroding peatland site in Wester Ross, Scotland.

You are possibly wondering, ‘How can bogs help tackle The Climate Crisis, stop and reverse biodiversity loss, whilst also driving  socio-economic benefits in rural Scotland?' 

There are in fact significant socio-economic benefits that stem from peatland restoration in rural Scotland, and it comes as no surprise that government and other restoration funding leads to a positive trickle effect to local economies. But we aren't here just to talk about finances, it's also important to highlight the social and wellbeing gains that come from peat wetland restoration. 

When peatland is in a natural-healthy state, it stores carbon, and over time naturally sequesters carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Within a few months of restoring an eroding area, carbon emissions are reduced by up to 4 tonnes per hectare. 
 
The restoration process itself involves many skilled professionals from different sectors and industries. Initially peat depth surveyors, habitat monitoring specialists, bird protection agencies and water management stakeholders are needed for the feasibility study of a chosen site. After this data is collected, environmental, mapping and GIS specialists must compile the evidence to apply for Peatland Action  funding. Once the funding officer gives the project the go-ahead, skilled contractors make their way to the chosen site to begin their work. Complex techniques are carried out by the teams in the excavators to create small holdings of water, in little pools and lochans. The aim here is to store water on the hill for longer, encouraging sphagnum mosses and native species alike to succeed the bare soil.  

Immediately after restoration this dry, dark, arid-like environment returns to its natural, green, spongey, abundant ecosystem, home to many amphibians, birds, mammals and insects and invaluable carbon sequestered. 


Over the past decades many remote rural communities in Scotland have struggled, with depopulation and economic decline meaning fewer opportunities and often an aging population.   Peat wetland restoration, together with other nature-based solutions for tackling climate change and reversing biodiversity loss, can reverse this decline and get a spring back in rural Scotland’s step.  


Small business such as the contractors we work with, have already felt a surge of demand for their unique skillset. For example, Alba Montane, contractors based in Lochluichart Wester Ross who specialise in peat wetland restoration have doubled their staff numbers, with an average age of 25 years old, in just 12 months.  
The demand for this work and such professions has added socio-economic value to remote, rural Scotland, to the people who know and understand the land, and to the green spaces they create. Motivation, satisfaction, and appreciation all tying into the overall positivity that comes from restoring a forgotten landscape back to its true beauty.  

 
An attractive green space also attracts increased recreational activity; hill walkers, climbers, ornithologists, wild swimmers, artists, photographers and so much more! Spending time in green space is scientifically proven to alleviate mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, studies also show increasing your time spent in open spaces could save millions in treatment costs annually. (Forest Research 2021) 

There is scope to add an educational dimension to this ever-growing sphere of peatland; signage, green tours and workshops surrounding these sensitive and fascinating ecosystems would make these natural wonders more accessible for all. Facilities such as visitor centres and cafes will likely be incorporated into a bigger eco-tourism picture. All these elements, paired with the opportunities of the NC500, pose plenty of potential for rural Scotland to flourish, creating job opportunities and injecting money into areas that might otherwise have been overlooked. 

It seems the word restoration doesn’t only apply to the process of peatlands. This national movement is restoring and enhancing rural businesses, livelihoods, and places. Support from higher up has been put right where it's needed to combat the climate crisis, but also aiding the whole socio-economic structure that is needed to fight it. 

 

For more information on this article, please contact:

Freddie Ingleby

Managing Director

+44 (0) 7840 998 944
freddie@caledonianclimate.com


About Caledonian Climate

Working responsibly with the custodians of Scotland’s beautiful countryside, Caledonian Climate is committed to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

To achieve this, we talk to forward-thinking businesses who want to fulfil their ambitions for carbon emission reductions through high-quality carbon credits with multiple co-benefits. We then partner them with landholders in the Scottish Highlands, maximising the ecological value and sustainability of their estates.

Building on our significant experience, and guided by a distinguished Advisory Board, Caledonian Climate is delivering the benchmark for long-term restoration of Scotland's degraded peatlands, locking away the carbon for good.

Our work also enhances biodiversity, improves water quality, boosts local economies and creates a compelling story for all of our partners to share.


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