Wildlife and Wind Farm visit to Flanders

Last week attendees of the Conference on Wind Energy and Wildlife Impacts visited Flanders Moss to experience the reserve and learn about raised bog restoration.

Flanders has trialed almost all restoration techniques available so what better better place could there be to learn?

Restored peatland on Flanders

Peatland bogs, such as Flanders Moss, store huge amounts of carbon – in Scotland they hold 1.6 billion tonnes. However, when damaged they actually emit carbon and releasing just 1% of it would equate to our entire domestic greenhouse gas emissions for a year.  They also form unique ecosystems of plants and animals, some of which are rarely found in other habitats.

To avoid impacting wildlife and undermining the carbon benefits of renewable energy, it’s important that consultants, developers and researchers know how to restore peatland affected by wind farms.

Steve spoke about techniques that have been used to restore Flanders after parts of it were modified by drainage in preparation for peat cutting. We had a look at the bunds, mounds of peat used to block drainage ditches, and a soft dam made of mulch from regenerated birch trees on the bog. These blockage techniques are used to prevent water draining off the bog to maintain the water level.

Soft dam
Peat bund

Steve took us to one area of Flanders that had been cleared of an old conifer plantation planted in the early 1970s. This left behind a ridge and furrow pattern in the land where rows of trees used to be. Here, traditional drainage blocking techniques do not work because the ridges remain out of the water, encouraging regeneration of trees. A stump flipping method was used to fill in furrows and level out the ground. This involves a digger removing conifer stumps and regenerated trees, burying them in the furrows and tracking over them. The result is a flatter landscape which allows the water to be held on the bog and for mosses to grow.

Area where stump flipping method was used
Flipped stumps.

We learned a lot about how quality restoration of damaged peatland can be achieved at wind farm sites and only one person got a welly-full of bog – a successful trip I’d say!

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