Making Space for Water

The project investigated the impacts of moorland restoration on flood risk

Conservation works such as dam building and plug planting were undertaken

The works were found to significantly reduce and slow run-off, lowering flood risk downstream

Providing evidence of the success of blanket bog conservation work in reducing flood risk

Our Making Space for Water project was designed to find out how improving the condition of blanket bog moorland can help to reduce local flood risk, while also producing wider benefits for the environment and communities.

We did this by monitoring the volume of rain falling into discrete areas (mini-catchments) during storms on the tops of the moor, and the volume flowing out of these areas. We also measured the height of the water table (depth of ground water beneath the surface), the amount of peat and carbon being washed away, and the colour of the water.

We chose the project site on the Kinder Scout plateau because it had vast areas of bare, eroding peat, having suffered a long history of degradation due to industrial atmospheric pollution, over-grazing and wildfires. We left a small part of the plateau in this degraded condition (a treatment-excluded ‘control’) so that we always had a comparison with our restored (‘treatment’) areas.

The results showed that our restoration activities on the plateau had the following effects:

  • Reduced and delayed storm flow (less water flowing out of the mini-catchment during a storm event, and taking more time.)
  • Significantly raised water tables, making the mini-catchments boggier and more conducive to sphagnum moss growth.
  • Increased number of and area covered by plant species that are key components of blanket bogs
  • Reduced area covered by bare peat
  • Reduced amount of peat washing away
  • A consensus amongst local land managers that restoration and sustainable management of degraded peatlands can deliver multiple benefits to society.

Measuring the flow

Since the conclusion of the Defra-funded period of the project we have added to the treatments by planting one of the mini-catchments with an additional 45,000 sphagnum plugs – 30,000 in 2015 and another 15,000 in early 2018. The aim of this intensive planting is to 'fast-forward' to a healthy blanket bog as soon as possible, so we can monitor the effects of a more complete cover sphagnum moss on raising water tables and slowing the flow of rainwater.

Read more about the Making Space for Water project including the final report

Harnessing nature to reduce stormflow

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