Welsh Peatland Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS) Project

A view across Abergwesyn Commons, Wales, during survey work on the peat bogs

Peatlands in the UK may be under threat but in Wales they have a chance of recovery due to the work being carried out by a new Welsh Peatland Project.

The Welsh Peatland Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS) Project is a large partnership project working with a range of organisations across Wales, including the National Trust. Our main aims are to help deliver the Welsh Government’s 2020 target of bringing peatlands into sustainable management as well as raising awareness of the importance of peat bogs by equipping communities with the knowledge and skills to maintain and look after peatlands.

This project promotes and showcases the Peatland Code across the UK which is a voluntary standard for UK peatland projects wishing to market the climate benefit of peatland restoration. We hope the project becomes a national hub for research on peatlands so the information can be shared with communities and researchers through a range of awareness events, guided walks & talks.

The Importance of Peat

There are four main reasons why peatlands are so important; biodiversity, carbon storage, historical value as well as water quality and quantity.

Peatlands form a unique habitat that supports a variety of plant species as well as insects, birds and mammals. Many at risk species, such as curlew and golden plover, call peatlands home.

Peat bogs are also a huge store of carbon as the plants that grow there are not able to decompose completely, meaning the carbon in the plants become locked in the peat.

Did you know that peatlands only cover around 3% of the world’s surface but contain more carbon than all of the world’s rainforests? Out of the total coverage of peat found in the world, 12% is found in the UK with an estimated 70,000 hectares of upland blanket bog in Wales. Peatlands are also one of the UK’s most important terrestrial carbon stores containing 20 times more carbon than the total number of UK forests.

Peatlands can provide a window to the past and have been known to perfectly preserve artefacts, such as tools and clothing, from thousands of years ago. In addition to this, the hydrological cycle is also affected by the condition of our peatlands. Much of the water we drink has drained off upland peatlands and is naturally filtered by the peat. They also have a role in flood prevention; a healthy peatland can hold much more water than one actively eroding and so can limit flood damage further downstream.

Our land

Abergwesyn Commons has been owned by the National Trust since 1984 and lies in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, Powys. At 6,677 hectares this group of commons are one of the largest blocks of National Trust land in Wales with around 32% designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA). Although the remaining 68% is non-designated, approximately 20% of that could be classed as priority habitat including modified blanket bog, mires and heathland making this a significant area for our restoration work.

Victoria Squire, project officer for the Welsh Peatlands SMS (South) carrying out a peat bog survey at Abergwesyn Hill common, Powys

June 2018 - The importance of peat

For centuries, peat has been viewed as a resource to be exploited for heating and compost, but now views are changing. The importance of peatlands for wildlife and climate change is becoming more apparent and Project Officer Vicky explains in our latest blog what she's doing to help restore it.