Peatland restoration

Restoring our precious peatlands

Round-leaved sundew: Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

98 % of our lowland peatland habitats have been destroyed

Despite peatlands being a vital part of our heritage and listed as a UK Priority Habitat, they are hugely undervalued and regarded as wastelands to be exploited for peat.

What is a peatland?

Healthy peatlands are wet and boggy. Combined with low oxygen conditions, this moisture means plant material doesn't rot and is instead compressed into acidic peat soil. The soil has very few nutrients; specialist conditions that nurture a range of important plants that have perfectly adapted to survive in this unique environment.


How did peatlands form?

Discover how these pieces of living history formed more than 10,000 years ago.

Read more

A healthy bog on Cadishead Moss

Why are peatlands so important?

Thanks to the wet, acidic, low nutrient conditions, peatlands have the ability to store millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that has been absorbed over thousands of years, helping in the fight against climate change. Not only that, but they reduce the risk of flooding by soaking up water during periods of high rainfall and gradually releasing it over time. By contrast, a degraded peatland actively leaks carbon into the atmosphere.

Peatlands are also key habitats for endangered and rare species of both plants and animals including the bog bush cricket, black darter dragonfly, round-leaved sundew and...

Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss is just one specialist plant species that has recolonised our Cadishead Moss reserve following restoration work (Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION)

Cotton grass

Cottongrass grows on peat bogs and is one of just a few foodplants of the rare large heath butterfly. Image by Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Common lizard

Common lizard by Tom Marshall

Large heath butterfly

The large heath butterfly is one of the species we're reintroducing in the Great Manchester Wetlands. Photo: Steve Rawlins - Chester Zoo

Why are peatlands under threat?

98% of the lowland peatlands across Lancashire, Greater Manchester and North Merseyside have already been destroyed, and the precious 2% that remain face serious threats from all corners:

  • Draining: Removing moisture upsets the delicate peatland ecosystem and can very quickly turn it back into grassland or woodland. The peatland flora and fauna, adapted for the previous environment, then struggles to survive.
  • Agriculture: Fertilisers add nutrients to the low nutrient soil. These are then very difficult if not impossible to remove, permanently decreasing the area of peatland habitat.
  • Development: As lowland habitats, there is a lot of pressure for lowland peatlands to be taken over by housing and infrastructure.
  • Misinformation: Historically, people placed little value on peatland habitats, seeing them as unproductive wastelands, and this preconception has endured.

Standby Productions have produced an amazing film highlighting why we need to save our peatlands

How we're saving peatlands

Restoring and protecting our precious peatlands is crucial not just for wildlife, but for us. They are nature reserves, carbon-stores, flood barriers and a wild reminder of a time before man-made pressures took hold. Once a peatland has degraded past a certain point it cannot be restored, and this precious wild place will be lost forever.

Our reserve staff, conservation team, volunteers and project leaders are working hard to re-wet the peatland landscape, building dams and bunds to raise the water levels and begin the restoration process.

We're working with landowners to improve the condition of the peatlands they own, and we campaign for the protection of key peatland sites.

We purchase key peatland sites to protect them from destruction, restoring them and then maintaining them through continuous monitoring. We're dedicated to preserving these precious habitats for future generations of both people and wildlife.

A reintroduced large heath butterfly after release

The large heath butterfly is one of the species we're reintroducing in the Great Manchester Wetlands. Photo: Steve Rawlins - Chester Zoo

Large heath butterfly reintroduction

The large heath butterfly (also known as the Manchester argus) has been locally extinct in it's home city for 150 years. But we're bringing it back to the peatlands of Greater Manchester.

Find out more
A footpath leading through the ferns on Cadishead Moss

Cadishead Moss is healing nicely after we rescued it from peat extraction

The Chat Moss Project

See how we're restoring lowland raised bogs in the Chat Moss area and engaging local communities with this fascinating habitat.

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A visitor to a mossland looking at an ancient mossland tree

An ancient mossland tree

Natural Carbon Capture scheme

Are you a business? Discover how you can fund the North West’s degraded peatlands back to health while balancing out your CO2 emissions.

Find out more

Take a closer look at our peatland sites

Together we can protect our peatlands for wildlife, for people; for everyone.

How you can help

Here are just a few ways you can help our peatlands recover...