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Bog Blog: Tough love - how to treat a rare habitat

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Hello B[L]OG Friends .....

Blog One in a new series from members of the Portmoak Community Woodland Group with thoughts on the restoration of Portmoak Moss which is our very own rare habitat: a Scottish Lowland raised peat bog. Portmoak bog is near Scotlandwell in Kinross-shire. It is owned and managed by Woodland Trust (Scotland).

In a good week I can pull up 150 trees. When I say “pull up” I’ve also perfected the “sawing around the roots” technique. And when I say “trees” I mean “wee trees”. Saplings. The smallest conifers, up to about 12 inches tall, often come up with just a tug. The birch saplings usually don’t. They tend to snap, either at the stem or at the roots. If you leave the roots in the ground the tree can regrow so it’s better to get the roots out.

Hang on, wait a minute, hold your horses. What AM I doing? Trees are good right? To save the planet we need to grow trees, billions of them. Trees take the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide out of the air and the carbon is “stored” in their roots, trunk and leaves and in the soil around them. Healthy peatlands can absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide too. Here’s a fact from NatureScot’s website: Scottish peatlands store 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon; equivalent to 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Portmoak Moss is a raised peat bog in recovery. We’re nursing it back to good health because degraded bogs emit carbon dioxide. And that’s why I am pulling up trees on the top of the bog. Removing trees will help to raise the water table to less than 100 mm below the surface. Raising the water table will help stop trees, and other plants such as brambles, growing and adding nutrients. A healthy bog has only dwarf shrubs, sedges and cotton grass and sphagnum mosses growing on it.

On a good day I can remove about 30 trees an hour. The tallest I can manage is about two and a half feet. The smallest is about two and a half inches. I leave the bigger trees to someone else. Someone with more strength and different tools. Members of our Group do what they can and we organise tree pull events. In January NatureScot brought along some of their staff and volunteers and cleared about 3,000 square meters which represents about 3% of the total area to be de-tree-ed.

Finally, in case you’ve got the wrong idea, I love trees. We just need the Right Trees in the Right Places.

Blogged by - Lesley B


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