SSE Renewables: Restoring valuable peatland habitat
Restoring peatlands back to their natural habitats
What we know
In recent years there have been major declines in the extent of blanket bog habitat in the UK, principally due to afforestation, drainage, burning and overgrazing.
Peat is the largest terrestrial carbon store in the UK and approximately 4.5 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in Scotland’s peatlands. Blanket bog habitats need to be in good health to function as a net sink carbon store instead of as a source of atmospheric carbon which is what happens if the peat is degraded.
More than a fifth of Scotland is covered by peat, which is home to a wide range of rare, threatened, or declining habitats, plants and animals. Sphagnum mosses, carnivorous sundew, the Large Heath Butterfly and the Bog Sun Jumper Spider, for instance, exist only or very predominantly on peatlands and are all examples of why these habitats are essential for maintaining rich biodiversity. Read more here.
What we’re doing
SSE Renewables actively manages peatland across ten operational wind farm sites and their associated Habitat Management Plan (HMP) areas in Scotland. This is achieved through implementing a variety of peatland management techniques, which include: targeted peatland restoration; ditch blocking; livestock reduction on sensitive peatland habitats; no burn policies; hag reprofiling; water management and forestry removal.
When restoring peat and blanket bogs, SSE Renewables applies extensive efforts to establish clear peat restoration goals. On wind farm construction sites, this includes ensuring all handling and storage of excavated peat is managed as part of a wider plan for peat reuse and reinstatement to achieve these restoration goals.
In Shetland, where SSE Renewables is currently constructing Viking Wind Farm, an ambitious peat enhancement plan has been agreed. The measures there propose the restoration of blanket bog across the wind farm, equating to 260 hectares or equivalent to 364 football pitches.
What it’s worth
A collaborative approach with the community and experts ensures the most effective outcomes for nature. Each intervention has a different result, for example, complex peat hag reprofiling; where eroded parts of the habitat are repaired, will prevent further damage and promote the growth of key peatland species such as cotton grasses and peat-forming sphagnum moss, a key bog ingredient which helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
Peatland restoration is essential to support this valuable and biodiverse habitat.
SSE Renewables has completed 1,678 hectares of peatland restoration, with a further 330 hectares in the planning stages.
As a responsible developer, owner and operator, SSE Renewables are committed to identifying and mitigating our environmental impacts. We must manage our impact on nature as part of our overall strategy to tackle climate crisis, and with an unprecedented global decline in biodiversity we have a role to play in healing nature by protecting and restoring the natural habitats we work in. In undertaking these works as we do, we’re supporting the local economy, increasing biodiversity and connecting with nature; aims which are at the heart of our vision of creating a more sustainable society.”Jim Smith Managing Director, SSE Renewables