Around 100 square miles of Yorkshire’s precious peatlands have been restored in a multi-million pound project that aims to preserve vital habitats and help cut global warming by reducing the amount of carbon escaping from them into the atmosphere.

The achievement is a significant milestone for the Yorkshire Peat Partnership (YPP) because it means nearly a quarter of Yorkshire’s damaged peatlands have been restored and an estimated 29,500 tonnes of the damaging greenhouse gas CO2 prevented from being emitted, a major cause of global warming. This is equivalent to the amount of carbon produced annually by 62,000 UK households.

The YPP is led by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, funded by Natural England, the Environment Agency, Yorkshire Water and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and supported by North York Moors National Park Authority, National Trust, Pennine Prospects, Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, National Farmers’ Union and the Moorland Association.

YPP programme manager Dr Tim Thom said, “Helping to restore more than a quarter of Yorkshire’s peatlands is a significant achievement – not only does it ensure that rare and precious wildlife is protected but safeguards iconic peatland landscapes for us all to enjoy”.
More than 60 per cent of the YPP restoration work had taken place in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, home to more blanket bog – the habitat in which peat formed – than any other National Park in England.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) had been key to the YPP’s success in the region.

Yorkshire heather moorland. Pic: Colin Grice/Wikipedia

Yorkshire heather moorland. Pic: Colin Grice/Wikipedia

Dr Thom added:  “The YDNPA has provided financial, practical and logistical support throughout the project, without which the YPP would not have reached the 100 square mile (10,000 hectare) restoration milestone.”

The YDNPA’s head of land management, Adrian Shepherd, said, “We’re delighted the Authority has been able to help the Partnership and that the challenge of restoring our internationally-important peatlands has been taken up so enthusiastically by landowners and farmers in the Yorkshire Dales National Park”.

Since 2009, the YPP had spent more than £5 million restoring peat, most of which had been provided by Natural England through its Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This is peatland restoration on an unprecedented scale in the Yorkshire region.

Natural England Lead Advisor for the Yorkshire Dales, Jackie Smith, said the work carried out by the YPP had been a tremendous accomplishment for habitat restoration, as well as helping improve the region’s drinking water quality by reducing sedimentation from peat flushed into reservoirs by surface run-off and increasing carbon sequestration.

She said Natural England identified that more than half of Yorkshire’s moorland Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) land urgently required peatland restoration.  To date an incredible 39 per cent of this land has been restored to a high standard by the YPP.

Reaching the 10,000 ha restoration milestone would not have been possible without the consent and co-operation of landowners and gamekeepers.

Dr Thom said, “The knowledge, assistance and expertise of landowners, gamekeepers and farmers have underpinned the successful delivery of every peatland restoration project that we have completed”.

Richard Johnson a landowner in the Yorkshire Dales whose advice and cooperation will lead to the restoration of 435 ha of peatland said “working with organisations to deliver restoration can be a challenge but with cooperation, communication and often compromise the best outcome can be achieved for both Yorkshire’s peatlands and also for those who work and derive their livelihood from the moorland areas with resulting benefits for the local economy”.

Dr Thom said the Yorkshire Peat Partnership hopes to continue to successfully help restore some of the remaining damaged blanket bog in the region: “What we would really like to see is YPP reach the 20,000 ha restoration mark, helping to restore and preserve nearly 50 per cent of Yorkshire’s valuable peatlands.”

Peatland restoration not only ensures the survival of rare plant and animal species, it also increases carbon storage, helps purify our drinking water and preserves tranquil landscapes that we can all enjoy well into the future. It is vital that we continue to support much need peatland restoration.

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