Green-minded grouse estates have been working with conservation bodies to helpsecure stores of carbon locked in rare moorland peat bogs.
With growing climate concerns, the value of peatland as a store of greenhouse gases has taken on international significance and 4 per cent of Europe’s peat carbon store is found in Scotland.
However, last century Scottish land managers received payments to create ditches for agricultural improvement and drains or ‘grips’ to dry the soil were dug on many hills.
Scottish Natural Heritage approached grouse estates and their gamekeeping staff in the Lammermuir and Moorfoot hills about an initiative to turn the clock back by re-shaping and blocking old hill ditches in order to re-wet the peat. Wetting helps keep carbon stored by preventing erosion and in some cases can reduce flows of water downstream. Many gamekeepers already block old grips and the estates were happy to contribute to the Peatland Action project, with important communities of flora and threatened fauna such as Lapwing and Curlew relying on healthy moorland habitat.
Cool heather burns to remove dead surface vegetation- and provide a food source for red grouse and other species- were also agreed with SNH, with sheep removed from one site during winter to minimise grazing pressure.
Ian Elliot of the Lammermuirs Moorland Group and Head Gamekeeper at The Hopes Estate said: “SNH identified where the old drains were and talked through the plan. We were happy to take part, providing everything was done prior to the breeding season on the moor. Doing this should benefit everything.”
On the Moorfoot hills, similar programmes have been undertaken as part of the Peatland Action project, on moors used for grouse shooting.