Peat bogs: the new battle ground for conservationists

Peat bog

Peat bogs are under threat with conservationists now bitterly opposing extraction 

28th November 2014 by Robert Armour 1 Comment

It gives Islay whisky its distinctive taste, keeps crofters warm in the depth of winter and provides a habitat for countless indigenous Scottish species.

But now conservationists want to curtail use of one of the country’s most versatile resources - for peat’s sake.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust is opposing plans for commercial peat extraction in Fife by the private company Everris and strongly believes there should be no new peat extraction sites in Scotland.

It said proposals for the site near Mossmorran were contrary to the Scottish Government's plans to reduce the use of peat in horticulture.

The problem is peat accumulates at a rate of about 1cm per decade; Everris, is proposing to extract to a depth of 1.2m.

Across Scotland, lowland bogs need restoration with approximately 90% being damaged or destroyed

John McTague, Scottish Wildlife Trust planning assistant, said the peat turf, which is decayed organic matter, would have taken about 1,200 years to form.

He said: "At a time when peatlands are recognised as an important natural capital asset, it is disappointing to see companies still wanting to extract peat for horticulture.

"The ecosystem services peatlands provide - such as water filtration, flood mitigation and carbon capture - are much more valuable to society than their use after being dug up.

"It takes a decade for 1cm of peat to form. So, it is amazing to think the 1.2 metres of peat proposed for extraction at this site would have begun forming 1200 years ago - roughly around the time the Vikings arrived in Scotland.

"Across Scotland, lowland bogs need restoration with approximately 90% being damaged or destroyed.

If restored, thesite could be rich with peat specialist plants such as cranberry, heather and sundew, to provide crucial habitat for wildlife such as breeding snipe and wintering merlins argued McTague.

"Many gardeners and allotment owners have used peat-free composts for years, showing that the archaic practice of destroying peat for horticulture is not needed for the production of quality compost," he said. 

29th March 2016 by Kathryn dunnett

In Caithness the most northerly county in Scotland there is still a commercial company extracting peat from the ground. This annoys me every time I pass on the main road. Nowadays this should not be needed.