Last week Duncan was at a peatland conference in Bangor, North Wales. The Tuesday morning field visit was to a site on the Llyn Peninsula. Cors Geirch is a fen which has undergone some quite radical restoration work in the past, including stripping off a layer of peat to take the surface back to the current water table. The results are impressive with the area treated using this method markedly more rich in species than the rush dominated areas that hadn’t.
There was a remarkable amount of long-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) on show and some other specialists such as frogbit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) and heath spotted orchid in abundance. The site is being grazed with ponies which were keeping a low profile in the presence of 50 or so peatland specialists.
The rest of the conference was largely indoors with lectures and talks on a range of bog related topics. Conferences like this are a great chance to catch up with other workers in the field including those coming at the subject from a practical or an academic angle. It’s one of those places where you come away with some useful and some less useful facts and some shocking statistics. The biggest concern at present seems to be over the destruction of Indonesian (and Malaysian) peatlands for the growing of oil palms. When peatlands decay they release carbon and so the biofuels produced from palm oil work out to be seven times more damaging in terms of green-house gasses than using a coal-fired power station – ‘greenwashing’ at its worst. The oil shales in Canada also prove to be enormously damaging in their destruction of peatlands and thus in the carbon and methane they release in the extraction (let alone the eventual use of the oil). On the positive side we heard about great work on peatland protection from the UK (which is globally important for its peatlands) to the Tibetan plateaux and to some interesting work in Canada too.
The second field trip was on Thursday afternoon but I, reluctantly, missed it to get a train back to Hexham. A great decision as it happened due to travel chaos and my 5 hour journey becoming one of 11 hours – but that’s another story. There are some useful contacts and ideas to bring back to the north-east and consider for sites like Prestwick Carr. In the meantime more people are now aware of the 40 years or so of pioneering work here in Northumberland on the Border Mires by Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Forestry Commission (and other partners); something we have done well but have failed to shout about!