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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
New protection for Scottish bogs
Cotton Grass. Picture courtesy of SNH.
Peat bogs provide wildlife havens and help slow down global warming
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has announced funding of more than 2.4m in an effort to save one of Scotland's rarest and most threatened habitats.

The money is aimed at protecting Scottish lowland peat bogs, half of which are in the central belt.

They are said to be under threat from commercial peat extraction, the planting of conifers and agricultural improvement.

Financial support and advice is available for 42 bog sites.

This covers an area stretching from the east coast of Fife and the Borders to Stirlingshire, Renfrewshire, and Ayrshire in the west.

They are the Scottish equivalent of the rainforests of Brazil or the Serengeti in Tanzania, teaming with life and rich with vivid splashes of colour
Lyndsey Kinnes

All the bogs are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSI).

Apart from providing havens for wildlife, the bogs also help slow down global warming by trapping carbon from the atmosphere.

Across the UK, the amount of lowland peatland has decreased from 95,000 hectares to 6,000 hectares since the start of the 19th century.

The South Scotland Bog Scheme, part of SNH's Natural Care Programme, aims to reverse the gradual drying out of bogs caused by human activities, by restoring and maintaining water levels in the peat.

Full bloom

This will encourage the growth of a host of specially adapted plants that thrive on the waterlogged ground, including sphagnum moss, which slowly accumulates to build up the blanket of peat.

Lyndsey Kinnes, SNH's project manager for the scheme, said: "In the past we have taken our bogs for granted. They used to be thought of as drab, dreary wastelands fit only for exploitation but this couldn't be further from the truth.

"In the full bloom of health they are the Scottish equivalent of the rainforests of Brazil or the Serengeti in Tanzania, teaming with life and rich with vivid splashes of colour."

Bog rosemary. Picture courtesy of SNH.
Bog Rosemary is one of the plants which flourish in peat bogs

She said the payments and advice available under the new scheme would give land managers the support they need to turn the health of the bogs around.

"We hope that as many as possible of those who are eligible will apply," she said.

"By working together we can make sure that these special wet and wild places continue to be part of our landscape for the future."

Deputy Environment Minister Rhona Brankin said: "Scotland's bogs sustain many animals and plants and play an important role in capturing carbon and soaking up flood waters.

"I'm especially pleased that community groups are becoming involved in the stewardship of these sites and would encourage farmers and landowners to take advantage of the grant aid and advice available to them under this new scheme."

Payments will be available for damming up ditches, removing trees to keep the water levels high as well as for fencing, grazing and scrub control to improve the condition of the plants that grow.

Some bogs are up to 9,000 years old and lowland bogs consist mainly of Somsphagnum moss.

Living among the moss are specialist bog plants such as the insect-eating sundews, cotton grasses and bog rosemary.

These in turn support a variety of insects, birds and animals, such as frogs, hares, skylarks and dragonflies.

Peat bog saved by hungry ponies
13 Jun 06 |  Cumbria
Iron Age 'bog bodies' unveiled
07 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature
Minister opens peat bog reserve
06 Oct 05 |  Humber
Toxins made by peat
26 Feb 03 |  Science/Nature
Public millions to save peat bogs
27 Feb 02 |  Science/Nature
Protection for peat bogs
25 Aug 00 |  UK News


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