In January the Peatland ACTION Data Team were kindly invited by the Crichton Carbon Centre to a training event in Dumfries and Galloway. The data team members come from a wide variety of ecological and data science backgrounds but much the peatland restoration science was new to us. The training aimed to look at a variety of restoration sites, begin to understand the complexities of restoration and how data feeds into the process.
Hosted in the wonderful community owned self-catering flats in New Galloway village, day one saw us all back in the classroom refreshing the basics of peatland development, terminology, carbon calculation, condition assessments, restoration planning and ‘a day in the life of a project officer’. On the following day, we visited some forest-to-bog sites in the area, and Galloway Fisheries Trust joined us to talk about their water quality monitoring work in the Water of Fleet catchment. This catchment suffers from acidification due to land management practices resulting in high levels of peat erosion, which poses significant issues for fisheries, particularly as it affects fish reproduction, as the high acidity prevents eggs from hatching. We discussed the use of Sonde water quality monitoring equipment and the lessons learnt by Galloway’s Fisheries Trust, which was very informative for planning our water quality monitoring strategies for Peatland ACTION and one of our freshwater pearl mussel conservation projects. This also led to further conversations about the value of data when engaging with adjacent stakeholders, as evidence is crucial for influencing change in land management practices. Our day concluded with an event of the South West Association of Nature Conservationists where we were treated to a fascinating talk, leading us to ponder the diversity of life in a cow pat on Oronsay as we finished our dinner.
The final part of our training visit was a trip to a blanket bog at Cairnsmore of Fleet NNR to understand how the challenges in this type of habitat differ from the raised bogs we visited the previous day. Here we saw some good examples of how small drains can add up to large erosion events, and discussed how monitoring can help highlight areas for prioritisation and the need for multi-party restoration efforts.
The data team are keen to understand the process of restoration from application to completion; this allows us to appreciate where we might lend a hand and our skills. The data team left Dumfries and Galloway with a greater appreciation of the complexity of peatland restoration planning and the challenges of delivery. Evidence of the value of restoration work is important for engaging people to participate in peatland restoration and appreciate the importance of these habitats. Data can also be used to support decision making and inform restoration approaches and the development of new techniques, as well as enabling us to demonstrate the success of our restoration efforts.