With intensifying fires and floods, the climate crisis is making itself very difficult to ignore these days, but a project in the UK plans to address both of these issues by restoring the dry and barren landscape of a moor near Manchester.
Over the past six months, conservationists led by the National Trust have been working to construct 3,500 scallop-shaped bunds (or dams) into peatland at Holcombe Moor in the West Pennines. These dams were created to retain water and rewet the peat which has dried out because of pollution, overgrazing, and moorland fires. The large-scale restoration project will help regenerate lost biodiversity, prevent flooding, and absorb CO2 emissions like a sponge.
Restoring peat bogs is essential to stabilizing the climate, as they store double the amount of carbon as the world’s forests on top of soaking up floodwater. Maddi Naish, a rural surveyor at the National Trust, explains: “If you imagine a giant sponge which is covered in thousands of small holes and can hold large quantities of water—that’s what we’re aiming for here.”
“The peat bunds stop rainwater rushing across and off the plateau and instead trap it on the moor, allowing special plants to thrive which help the peat to absorb carbon from the air,” she continues.
Healthy peatlands also support biodiversity, attracting plants, insects, and rare wading birds like the golden plover and dunlin.
Restoration projects such as this are proving to be increasingly important, especially after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that warns us of humanity’s short window in which to act to prevent global warming from heating to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
“Peatlands only cover a tiny percentage of the world’s land but are superheroes when it comes to storing carbon,” Naish says. “We’re just a stone’s throw away from a major city so it’s incredible to think we live alongside a habitat that is rarer than rainforests globally, but which contributes so significantly to tackling climate change.”