Blanket bog is typically found in upland areas of Britain, on summits and gentle slopes. It is defined by its deep peat soils, which depend on rainfall for water supply and are consequently poor in nutrients and often very acid. One of the main `bog-builders` is Sphagnum moss, which is very sensitve to disturbance of water supply.
Britain is one of the main locations for blanket bog habitats, with more than 2 million ha out of a total global blanket mire resource of approximately 10-12 million ha.
Blanket bogs are protected under the EU Habitats Directive Annex I (Code 7130) and are also a UK BAP Priority Habitat. They have been recognised over the last fifty years for their importance in terms of their biodiversity, climate influence, geological and landscape value, and many have subsequently been designated as National Nature Reserves (NNRs), Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Despite this, 45 percent of our blanket bog has been found to be in unfavourable condition (English Nature 2004). The Habitats Directive has therefore prioritised degraded blanket bog, aiming to have 840 000 hectares under favourable condition by 2015.
The land uses occurring on blanket bogs are variable and often complex, including agriculture, conservation, recreation, water catchment, forestry, grouse and deer management. Conflicts between different user groups, each with their own agenda, can occur. Together with policy changes over the last century, these have impacted negatively upon this important habitat. There have been a number of recent reviews of the management of blanket bogs, including assessments of the impact of burning and drainage.
The main purpose of this research project is therefore to undertake a review of current knowledge on the management and restoration of blanket bog, particularly with regard to the restoration of its hydrological (water) function and healthy Sphagnum growth. The project will use case studies and interviews with a selection of stakeholders (including private land managers, environmental organisations, academic scientists and government bodies). It will develop an understanding of the influence of historic and current land management practices and legislation on blanket bog and consider a range of management options to recreate ‘active’ blanket bog in favourable condition. It will seek to take a holistic view of the management and restoration of this important habitat, recognising the many and varied demands upon it. It will identify gaps in current knowledge, and will make recommendations about appropriate field-based research to help secure effective and sustainable management of blanket bogs for future generations.