Wales’ peatlands – also attractively known as bogs, mires or moors – are an unlikely hero whose health is essential for our water security, as we prepare for a future of hotter summers and wetter winters under climate change.
The report says the Welsh Government annual target to restore 650 hectares of peatland was surpassed by restoration action on over 1000 hectares, the equivalent of 1400 football pitches.
Given that 70% of UK’s drinking water comes from upland areas dominated by peatlands, the need for their restoration is clear following a month [July] where Wales has received only 56% of its expected rainfall.
What’s more, wet bogs contain up to 90% water meaning that they act as a natural barrier to spreading wildfires and reduce the risk of floods further downstream.
They are also an incredibly efficient carbon store, retaining more carbon in the soil than the equivalent capacity of a forest of trees. The 4% of Wales covered by peat stores up to 30% of Wales’ soil carbon. However, damaged peatlands are releasing this carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to speeding up climate change.
As droughts, wildfires and floods are predicted to exacerbate in the coming years, Welsh Government set up National Peatland Action Programme after recognising the essential role peatlands play in fighting the climate and nature emergencies.
Climate Change Minister, Julie James said:
"Bogs might not sound very glamorous, but they are Wales’ unsung heroes – especially during prolonged periods of dry or wet weather, like we have seen recently.
"When peat bogs are in a good state of repair, they are our most efficient terrestrial carbon sinks; they are home to a wide range of wildlife and plants, and even help purify our drinking and bathing water.
"Their restoration is vital to our response to the nature and climate emergencies so this report by NRW is very welcome news and I want to thank them for their hard work in accelerating their efforts to peat the target!
"We must ensure we continue to protect and cherish our valuable peatland ecosystem."
National Peatland Action Programme Project Manager, Dr Rhoswen Leonard explained:
"Our success in delivering restoration activity on over 1000 hectares of peatland in a year reflects the collective passion of the NPAP team and our partners to achieve high nature, low carbon targets for the benefit of the people of Wales.
"In support, Welsh Government inspires the urgency and Natural Resources Wales and our partners provide the momentum and joined-up capacity to make this Programme a success.
"Peatland restoration is a big growth area to address the climate and nature emergencies, so we’re very grateful to our partners, for their impressive successes in re-wetting peat, and to the innovative contractors who adapted techniques and equipment to address the challenges on site.”
One of the reasons for the success of the restoration is flexibility in agreements and funding to ensure peatland restoration goes ahead in a range of landowning circumstances.