About our Mosslands

This is the page where you can find out anything and everything about the mosslands...

What is a Mossland?

A healthy mossland is a wet boggy place which has very few nutrients in the soil, and so contains a special range of plants which can cope with these conditions.

The wet, low oxygen conditions where this habitat can be found, prevents plant material from rotting away allowing peat soil to form.

Peat is acidic which further restricts the range of plants which can grow in this environment. It is these low nutrient wet acidic conditions which make Mosslands so special.

Why Are Mosslands So Important?

Not only are mosslands a key habitat for endangered and rare species, thanks to the wet, acidic, low nutrient conditions, they also have the ability to store carbon dioxide. In an age where Climate Change issues are rife, mosslands hold the key to many concerns. 

In addition, the low oxygen acidic conditions found in the peat also act as an excellent perseverative making Mosslands a rich store of historical information.

Key plants and animals you may find on a mossland include:

  • Sphagnum moss
  • Sundew
  • Cotton grass (pictured)
  • Bog Myrtle
  • Black Darter Dragonfly
  • Common Lizard
  • Common Toad & Common Frog
  • Brown Hare 

How Did they Form?

Mosslands started forming over 10,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age. As the ice sheet retreated from across Britain it left a number of clay lined pools. Over time these pools filled with dead bits of vegetation and because of the low oxygen conditions peat soil began to form.

However at the start these pools have too many nutrients in them, which come from the clay and water running over surrounding land into the pool, to form a mossland. As the pools fill with peat they start turning into Fens and Reedbeds, important habitats we can still see today.

Eventually the pools completely fill with peat and we reach a critical stage in the formation of a mossland. If it stays wet enough and peat continues to form a ‘dome’ will begin to form raising the ground above the surrounding landscape. The raised dome means that the former pool will now no longer receive nutrients from the surrounding landscape, the only source will be from rainfall. It is at this point that the former pool becomes a mossland as it gradually becomes nutrient poor as nutrients are washed out of the soil by the rain, and very few nutrients come in via rainfall. 

Why are Mosslands so rare?

There are a number of reasons...

  • They rely on water – once they are drained they very quickly turn into grassland or woodland.
  • They are a low nutrient habitat - once nutrients or fertiliser are added to the ground it is very difficult if not impossible for the nutrients to be removed, permanently decreasing the area of mossland habitat.
  • They are a lowland habitat where the pressure for them to be developed on is very high unlike in upland areas.
  • Historically people have not valued them – they have seen them as wastelands which are unproductive.
  • 97 % (28,151 ha) of the mossland habitat across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside has been destroyed.

How do we save them?

We use a 5 step process to saving Mosslands:

1. We carried out an audit of what Mossland habitat we had in the region and what condition it was in – which we regularly revisit to make sure it is up to date.

2. We identified key mossland sites where action is needed

3. We work with landowners to improve the condition of the mosslands they own, we campaign for the protection of key mossland sites, and as a last resort option we buy mossland sites to ensure they are protected

4. We restore key mossland sites

5. We help maintain the sites to make sure they are preserved for future generations.

Contact Us

For more information on the Mosslands project, please contact Chris Miller.
E: cmiller@lancswt.org.uk
T: 01204 663754