50,000 handfuls of sphagnum moss have been transplanted from Wales to Dove Stone in the Peak District as part of an ambitious bog restoration programme.
The moss was harvested from a donor site in Ceredigion, South Wales, a forestry plantation managed by Natural Resources Wales, and was then transported onto the moors at Dove Stone by lorry and helicopter. It will now be planted by hand across an area the size of around 56 football pitches (40ha) to restore the site's damaged blanket bog. Dove Stone is managed by the RSPB in partnership with landowner United Utilities.
Sphagnum moss is the building block of blanket bog. When functioning properly, this globally rare peatland habitat provides great public benefits including storing harmful carbon, improving water quality and reducing flood risk.
However, like many of the UK's blanket bogs the one at Dove Stone was seriously damaged by historical industrial air pollution. Much of the vegetation and sphagnum moss was destroyed, leaving the bare exposed areas of peat to dry out.
Since 2005, United Utilities and the RSPB have been restoring the bog by covering the bare damaged peat with vegetation and blocking gullies to raise the water table. Funded by WREN, the latest phase of this restoration programme, Spreading the Moss, focuses on repopulating the bog with donor sphagnum, which will eventually lead to the formation of peat.
Gareth Roberts, RSPB Sphagnum Recovery Project Officer, said: "I am very grateful to Natural Resources Wales for providing us with the donor sphagnum; translocation is an ideal way of replacing sphagnum that has been lost from the Peak District, giving the blanket bog the chance to thrive once again."
"This is another great success," said Ed Lawrance, Wildlife Warden for United Utilities. "The reintroduction of Sphagnum to Dovestone is a key part of the improvements we are making to the site to improve water quality and increase wildlife. We really appreciate the support of Natural Resources Wales in helping us achieve this."
Brian Hanwell, Natural Resources Wales' Area Manager for the Cambrian Mountains, said: "The importance of managing peatlands can't be over-stated. They don't just store carbon - they harbour a wealth of rare plants and wildlife - birds such as curlew and golden plover as well as rare insects and plants. They also help store water which can reduce the risk of flooding downstream. And they help purify our water supplies.
"The restoration work in the Peak District mirrors a lot of work that we've been involved with in the Welsh uplands. So it's really important work and we were glad that we could help."