Globally, the historic and recent exploitation of peatlands through management practices such as agricultural reclamation, peat harvesting or forestry, have caused extensive damage to these ecosystems. Their value is now increasingly recognised, and restoration and rehabilitation programmes are underway to improve some of the ecosystem services provided by peatlands: blocking drainage ditches in deep peat has been shown to improve the storage of water, decrease carbon losses in the long-term, and improve biodiversity. However, whilst the restoration process has benefitted from experience and technical advice gained from restoration of deep peatlands, shallow peatlands have received less attention in the literature, despite being extensive in both uplands and lowlands. Using the experience gained from the restoration of the shallow peatlands of Exmoor National Park (UK), and two test catchments in particular, this paper provides technical guidance which can be applied to the restoration of other shallow peatlands worldwide. Experience showed that integrating knowledge of the historical environment at the planning stage of restoration was essential, as it enabled the effective mitigation of any threat to archaeological features and sites. The use of bales, commonly employed in other upland ecosystems, was found to be problematic. Instead, ‘leaky dams’ or wood and peat combination dams were used, which are both more efficient at reducing and diverting the flow, and longer lasting than bale dams. Finally, an average restoration cost (£306 ha−1) for Exmoor, below the median national value across the whole of the UK, demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of these techniques. However, local differences in peat depth and ditch characteristics (i.e. length, depth and width) between sites affect both the feasibility and the cost of restoration. Overall, the restoration of shallow peatlands is shown to be technically viable; this paper provides a template for such process over analogous landscapes.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Sep 15, 2015
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