Element 1: Carbon Storage

Restoring the natural action of peat bogs is as simple as blocking the drains which are drying them out

Pumlumon offers an enormous opportunity to help reduce the UK's net carbon dioxide emissions

Peatlands are the UK's biggest store of carbon. If just five percent of this habitat were to be lost through drainage and erosion, the carbon released would equal the UK's total annual emissions caused by fossil fuels.

Like many upland areas, Pumlumon holds vast reserves of peat. In the 1950s and 60s, much of it was drained in a largely unsuccessful attempt to improve grazing. This degraded wildlife habitats and, as the drying peat oxidised, released large amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere.

We now know we can reduce these emissions by blocking the drainage ditches. As the bogs become wet again the mosses start to grow, absorbing carbon each summer and locking it away as new peat. At the same time, the existing stores of peat are protected from further erosion, and species marginalised by the original drainage can return.

How we are bringing the peat bogs back to life

The Pumlumon area has the potential to absorb and store huge amounts of carbon at a very modest cost. On one holding we blocked 11km (6.8 miles) of ditches, restoring 105ha of peat bog, and safeguarding 82,500 tonnes of carbon. The value of this land in carbon terms is around £210/ha (assuming a carbon trading value of £5/tonne).

Recent research has shown that a healthy, growing sphagnum moss bog can absorb up to 0.5 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, whereas the same area of damaged or drained bogs can release 2-5 tonnes. Joseph Holden of the Earth and Biosphere Institute at the University of Leeds states that peatlands have a long-term ability to absorb and store carbon at 12-23 grammes of carbon per square metre per year. This gives them, he says "a major role in moderating atmospheric CO2 concentrations". On the Pumlumon Pilot projects we estimate we are already preventing the emission of 775 tonnes of CO2 each year, and absorbing a further 572 tonnes, making a total contribution to the UK's carbon balance of 1,347 tonnes CO2 each year. If we can rewet all the project area's 1,543 hectares of deep peat soils, the contribution could be ten times greater.

New mosses grow in a rewetted bog