Repairing Scotland’s peatlands: Volunteer “Bog Squad” celebrates six years of progress

Bog Squad volunteers blocking ditches (Photo credit: David Hill)

Wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation is celebrating six years of its “Bog Squad” initiative this March. Begun in 2014, this group of volunteers is carrying out rehabilitation works on damaged peat bogs across the Scottish Lowlands. As the charity puts it, “These volunteers are working on the front lines in the battle against the climate crisis.”

Scotland’s bogs are vast stores of carbon laid down by slowly decaying vegetation in wet, acidic conditions over thousands of years. Unfortunately, many of Scotland’s bogs have been damaged by attempts at drainage and burning, causing them to become net carbon emitters.

Scottish peat bogs are also key wildlife habitats providing homes for species such as the bog specialist Large Heath butterfly, which has declined in range across the UK by over 50% since 1976. Other increasingly rare butterflies such as the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Green Hairstreak benefit from lowland bog habitat too.

Since 2014 Bog Squad volunteers have been putting in huge efforts to save our peatlands and their habitats. Restoration work has focussed on blocking old drainage ditches and removing water-sapping invasive scrub, allowing Sphagnum mosses, the driving force behind peat formation, to flourish again. Funded by the SNH-led Peatland ACTION project, the Bog Squad have carried out work at 26 bogs across Scotland with 330 hectares of bog improved. Nearly 300 individual volunteers have joined in to carry out this vital work.

Bog Squad spokesperson David Hill said: “It’s been fantastic to work with so many enthusiastic volunteers over the last six years. Lowland bogs are such wonderfully rich places for wildlife. Added to that their potential value in battling climate change makes restoring them a real win-win both for wildlife and people.”

He also added:

“Butterfly Conservation Scotland warmly welcomes the Scottish government’s announcement in the budget that peatland restoration measures will receive £20m next year, up by £6m. We are particularly pleased that the funding will continue for at least 10 years, allowing peatland restoration techniques to be refined, and for businesses engaged in restoration to acquire the right machinery and train their staff. This will be a significant improvement in our ability to conserve these areas which are so valuable for wildlife, for purifying water, and for locking up carbon.”