What is the Care-Peat partnership?
Care-Peat is an Interreg project with nine partners working together to reduce carbon emissions and restore the carbon storage capacity of different types of peatlands in North-West Europe. The main partnership consists of five knowledge institutes and four nature organisations from Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Together with our other project partners, we develop and test new techniques and socio-economic strategies for carbon reduction.
Why focus on peatlands?
Peatlands are not only habitats with a highly specialised flora and fauna, they also play an important role in global climate regulation. In fact, peatlands are our largest global carbon store. Not only do they contain more than 550 gigatonnes of carbon - they also store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests.
Despite Northern hemisphere peatlands counting for just three to five per cent of total land area, they contain around 33 per cent of global soil carbon. Therefore, peatlands have a strong natural potential to save carbon and play an important role in nature-based solutions for climate change.
CO2 emissions from drained and burned peatlands equate to 10 per cent of all annual fossil fuel emissions
When peatlands are drained, the well-preserved carbon inside them is released as greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is why it is important to keep peatlands wet. Unfortunately, many peatlands are degraded and emit rather than store carbon: the global annual greenhouse gas emissions from drained organic soils are twice that from aviation, with CO2 emissions from drained and burned peatlands equating to 10 per cent of all annual fossil fuel emissions. We need to act now to prevent further degradation and encourage more recovery of our remaining peatlands.
What does Care-Peat do?
The main goal of Care-Peat is to set up and demonstrate innovative technologies for new restoration and carbon measurement techniques, and to involve local and regional stakeholders.
The nature conservation organisations involved in the partnership - Lancashire Wildlife Trust included - together with local landowners are restoring peatlands on five different pilot sites ranging from two to 250 hectares, and demonstrating the (potential) carbon savings of the restoration. For each pilot site different restoration techniques are used, from manual labour to growing additional peat moss.
Throughout the project, the nature conservation partners are supported by the knowledge institutes that work together to develop and test new equipment, methods and models to predict carbon flows (for example, by using drones and satellites to guide restoration and inform carbon models). Care-Peat also works with innovative companies in the field of restoration and develops partnerships with local and regional stakeholders to increase the impact of pilots and maximise socio-economic benefits.
An important output of Care-Peat is the publication of management and decision tools concerning the best options for peatland restoration in regard to carbon storage. This way, the results of the project are transferred and replicated to users across North-West Europe to determine the most appropriate management measures, even after Care-Peat has ended.
What are we doing at our Wildlife Trust?
On our Little Woolden Moss nature reserve in Salford, Greater Manchester, we'll test different combination planting techniques for their effect on greenhouse gas emissions and in terms of best practice restoration of this ex-peat extraction site.
We'll also be creating a sphagnum moss growing area on farmland next to our lowland raised bog, Winmarleigh Moss SSSI, near Garstang in Lancashire. We'll pilot techniques to achieve successful establishment of sphagnum moss as a restoration approach for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and as a potential alternative land management technique. We'll also assess the effect of re-wetting this buffer zone area on the functioning of Winmarleigh Moss. A study of the socio-economic aspects of this approach is also part of the Care-Peat project.
We will be sharing our work widely with stakeholders, and seeking their input, to help promote and disseminate beneficial techniques. Micro-Propagation Services are our sub-partner on the project and will be assisting with expert knowledge input into the design of the pilot and growing the sphagnum moss required.
How much carbon can be saved?
Care-Peat is ambitious. By the end of the project in 2022, we expect that about 7,800 tonnes of carbon emissions per year will be prevented from losses and stored in the five pilot sites (around 630 hectares in total). This is comparable to the greenhouse gas emissions of 6,072 passenger cars driven for one year (source: EPA).
After 2022 we hope that nature conservation and other organisations all over North-West Europe will take (further) measures, resulting in the restoration of many more peatlands. And the more peatlands are restored, the more carbon is saved. In this way, peatlands can become an important natural partner in climate policies across North-West Europe.