Tweed Forum in bid to save peatlands

Borders environmental charity Tweed Forum is taking part in an innovative, high-tech pilot that aims to create a digital tool to enhance peatland restoration efforts across the country.

By Kevin Janiak
Thursday, 28th October 2021, 12:22 pm
Exposed peatlands. Photo: Phil Wilkinson.
Exposed peatlands. Photo: Phil Wilkinson.

The project receives support from the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme, which aims to encourage public sector innovation through business collaboration.

Tweed Forum will work with partners to develop a web-based tool that will help to prioritise areas for peatland and wetland restoration in Scotland.

Peatlands have a major role to play in the fight against the effects of climate change, storing carbon, acting as a flood water store and clean water filter, and providing a rich habitat for wildlife. They make up around 20% of Scotland’s land cover, but it is estimated that around 80% is damaged, releasing carbon instead of storing it, and leading to poorer quality river water, reduced flood protection and diminished plant and wildlife biodiversity.

Tweed Forum director, Luke Comins said: “Peatland is one of our most significant carbon stores and provides huge additional biodiversity, water storage and filtration benefits.

"We’re delighted to be part of a project that has the potential to help decision makers prioritise where peatland restoration work needs to be done, making the most of available resources and assisting with Scotland’s transition to Carbon Net Zero.”

The 15-week pilot will involve the creation of a multi-function web-based portal that uses remote satellite sensing technology to identify the peatlands emitting the most carbon. This new data will be combined with existing, but often disparate information to prioritise areas in need of restoration. Tweed Forum’s role will be to engage with local land managers, policy makers and peatland restoration contractors to ensure that the web portal is usable and meaningful.

As well as indicating geographic areas of peatland and its condition and suitability for restoration, it is hoped that the portal will also model carbon values and other ecosystems benefits including biodiversity, water quality and flood mitigation. This information will be an extremely valuable resource for land managers and policy makers, enabling them to more accurately assess which sites are in most urgent need of work, and helping to optimise both resources and overall benefits.

The results of the plot will be showcased at a CivTech demonstration day in February 2022 when the prototype will be presented to senior public, private and third sector figures in the hope that it can then be further developed and rolled out across the country.