Reintroducing sphagnum mosses
The Moors for the Future Partnership aims to reintroduce peat-forming sphagnum moss to 1700 hectares of blanket bog in the Peak District over the next four years. Sphagnum is a fascinating plant and was used as field dressings in the First World War due to its unique antiseptic properties. This time it is intended to help heal the scars on the landscape caused by erosion and pollution from the Industrial revolution.
With sphagnum’s ability to hold between ten and twenty times its weight in water, reintroductions in the form of plug plants, special beads and slime will help retain water on our hills. Slowing down the flow of water from these areas will reduce the erosion of peat soils which contributes towards climate change because of the huge amount of carbon they store. The plants also help filter out peat particles which would otherwise find their way into our reservoirs, costing water companies large amounts in additional water treatment. Other benefits from this process of rewetting are: reducing the risk of downstream flooding and problems from wildfires.
Since the Industrial revolution, air quality in the Peak District has greatly improved which has meant much of the sphagnum that was killed off by pollution can grow again. In introducing more of it, the hope is it will successfully establish itself, help create new peat and store more carbon by the process known as ‘carbon sequestration’. Already work is underway developing a new cutting tool to help harvest it from donor sites where it is abundant. This is all part of the MoorLIFE 2020 project which has secured a £1.25 million investment from various sources including Natural England and the EU LIFE programme.