Quaking bogs get new lease of LIFE
As one of two new major EU LIFE Programme projects now up and running, the LIFE Quake project will spend just over £4.5 million over the next four years to restore Quaking Bogs – so called because of the way this peatland habitat literally shakes under your feet!
Here we’ll find out more about these unique and rare habitats.
What are quaking bogs?
Quaking bogs are wetland habitats where the conditions have been just right over many thousands of years to create peat.
As particular mosses break-down over time and with the right amount of water present, alongside low levels of oxygen and nutrients and additional factors like grazing to keep other plants and grasses under control, an ideal environment is created where this peat can build.
Peat has an extensive and fascinating history but in this modern era has taken on increased significance due to the important part it plays in capturing and storing enormous amounts of carbon.
As wetland habitats are transformed from glacial lakes to fen, through transition mire towards becoming a quaking bog, the ground while capable of being stood on, actually quakes under-foot, quite a unique and fascinating thing to see and feel!
A healthy quaking bog habitat is home to a wide variety of plants, mosses and grasses which in turn provide the perfect conditions for rare species - perhaps most notably, the great fen raft spider and the marsh fritillary butterfly.
Why are they so special?
The UK has special responsibility for these habitats with almost two-thirds located within the Atlantic biogeographical region - 8% of which is in Wales.
The project will focus on seven Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) – Crymlyn Bog, North West Pembrokeshire Commons, Preseli, Rhos Goch, Corsydd Eifionydd, Gweunydd Blaencleddau and Cors Caron.
The habitat has been assessed as ‘unfavourable’ at each of these sites, where the main causes include extensive grazing or under grazing; abandonment of land management; mixed-source air pollution; diffuse and point-source pollution of surface and/or groundwater; invasive vegetation and drainage.
Healthy peatland are hugely important in terms of capturing and storing carbon. If these habitats are damaged or not functioning as they should, these (often) huge areas actually release the carbon that has been stored for thousands of years.
Bogs where the water levels are not maintained properly can also lead to flooding in surrounding areas. Peatland can also give us enormous insight into our history. Peat is found in areas where the conditions are perfect for preserving so they can often give us clues about our past.
They’re also areas of outstanding natural beauty due to the abundance and variety of vegetation and wildlife found there. In short – they’re worth keeping and deserve to be enjoyed!
What is the LIFE Quake project doing to restore them?
LIFE Quake aims to restore and maintain transition mires, quaking bogs and the wider supporting wetland landscapes to favourable conservation status.
Some of the project sites are too wet for quaking bogs to thrive, whilst some aren’t wet enough. The project will complete comprehensive surveys for the sites to get a better understanding of what’s happening and why.
The project will also restore and secure appropriate sustainable grazing regimes - installing almost 50 km of fencing, along with other infrastructure to improve access for graziers.
Invasive non-native species will also be removed, alongside mowing of dominant grasses that can smother the natural habitat.
An important part of the project will be to raise understanding and appreciation amongst the public and local land managers, farmers and stakeholders of the importance and conservation requirements of transition mires and quaking bogs.
It promises to be a very busy four years for LIFE Quake project but the team behind the project are keen to get started and restore these amazing, valuable habitats to their healthy, thriving, biodiverse best!
Follow the project on social media: Facebook & Twitter by searching LIFEQuakingBogs