Ecosystem services of upland carbonlandscapes in England Mick Rebane Evidence Team - Senior Specialist Uplands
Upland Ecosystem Services Atlas
The English uplandsThe value of the uplandenvironment for peoplereaches out far beyond itsboundaries. Aim is to increaseunderstanding (and value) ofits importance by those whouse, manage and benefit fromit.The maps identify what isspecial in terms of both thebenefits and services theyprovide for people, and thewildlife and natural featureswhich underpin them.These services and benefitsfrom the environment arecollectively known as“ecosystem services”.Each chapter covers a differentvital ecosystem service,illustrating service supply,service demand, quality ofservices, challenges andsolutions.
Peat SoilsWhere are our high-carbonpeat soils?Upland soils are the largestcarbon store in England. 300million tonnes are stored inEnglish peatlands, mostly inthe uplands.Peat bogs sequester (soak up)atmospheric carbon dioxide inperpetuity, when in goodcondition. Billions of tonneshave been removed from theatmosphere globally since thelast ice-age.Carbon is also stored invegetation as well –particularly woodlands andtrees.
Peat soils in the northern and south-westuplands
Drainage andcarbon loss fromblanket peatAre peat bogs losing carbon?Up to 4 million tonnes of CO2 arebeing emitted per year fromEnglish peatlands – similar to CO2emissions from domestic aviation.How do drainage and burningaffect carbon stores ?Upland peat has been extensivelyartificially drained Across theuplands there are an estimated30,000 km of artificial peat drains(or grips”). These soils losecarbon through erosion andoxidation (drying out). Burning(by wildfire or burns prescribed aspart of grouse moormanagement) can destroy peatand peat forming mosses such asSphagnum.
SSSI ConditionWhat state are peat bogsin?Many peat bogs are designatedas SSSI (Sites of SpecialScientific Interest) for theirnationally importantvegetation and wildlife. Thecondition of SSSI features canbe a useful proxy for the‘carbon status’ of the soil.Bogs in ‘favourable’ condition(dark green on map) arewaterlogged and support peat-forming plants that sequestercarbon.Those in ‘unfavourablerecovering’ condition (lightgreen – i.e. the majority ofupland peat bogs) should stoplosing carbon and start tosequester it, as peat-formingconditions return over time.This may take many years.
New peat status mapping
WATER SUPPLY ANDQUALITY
Annual rainfallHow important are ouruplands forwater supply?70% of UK drinking water iscollected from uplandcatchments.With climate change theuplands may become evenmore important as thelowlands become hotter anddrier.
Projected changes in rainfall in England
Deteriorating raw watercolour trend in United UtilitiessupplyIncreasing water colour (brownwater from peat soils) is asignificant drinking waterquality issue in the uplands.Colour in water is removedbecause it is aestheticallyundesirable and may react inthe treatment process to formunwanted substances.Removing colour is expensiveand uses significant amounts ofenergy and chemicalsproducing a sludge by-productwhich has to be disposed of.Grip blocking and restoringdegraded peatland tofavourable condition may helpstabilise water colour in thelong term.
Land-use changes in theBrennand CatchmentThe land use changes put in placethrough United Utilities’ SustainableCatchment Management Programme(http://www.unitedutilities.com/scamp.htm) aim to improvebiodiversity, water quality, andminimise peak water flows (followingheavy rainfall).This map shows the land use changesput in place in the Brennandcatchment which feeds into theHodder and Ribble rivers, upstream ofPreston.It is hoped such changes will helpreduce flood risk in villages and townsfurther downstream. Research isunderway by the EnvironmentAgency to assess the impacts of thesechanges on river flows.
Land management challenges - grips
Land management challenges - burning
Broomhead Moss 1948
Broomhead Moss 1976
Broomhead Moss 2000
Heather on deep peat – hasbecome a weed• Naturally part of blanket bogcommunities but not dominant,often suppressed &/or found ondrier areas.• Responds well to drying outof peat.• Adapted to & responds wellto managed burning and canbecome dominant especially onpeat where wetland spp thatfire intolerant are eventuallyreplaced.• Re-establishes vegetatively &by seed following fire.• Dominance contributes tofurther drying out of bogthrough increase in presence ofpeat piping.