Snowdonia National Park Authority – Eryri and Hiraethog Peatland Restoration Project
Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) was formed in 1951 and is the largest National Park in Wales. Snowdonia National Park Authority’s aims to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area; promote opportunities to understand and enjoy its special qualities; and foster the economic and social wellbeing of its communities.
In the winter of 2012/2013, Snowdonia National Park Authority, in conjunction with the Countryside Council for Wales (now Natural Resources Wales) and a private landowner, embarked on an ambitious project to restore over 33 hectares of peatland at Rhyd Ddu, Beddgelert. The £35,000 project, which was funded by the Welsh Government’s Ecosystems Resilience and Diversity Fund, focussed around the foothills of the Snowdonia mountain range, the Eryri and Hiraethog Peatland Restoration Project aims to conserve and restore peat rich habitats, thus protecting the key services which they provide to society. These include carbon sequestration, water regulation and sustainable agriculture. In addition, the work ensures that the biodiversity of these areas continue to flourish so that they continue to be enjoyed by people for future generations.
In an area where rural poverty is a real issue, it is vital that upland areas are sustainably managed to provide economic benefits to local communities whilst ensuring that the key ecosystem services which they deliver are not compromised.
The project hopes to reinstate the ecological integrity of the site so that it can once again provide the ecosystem services it once did, in addition to the ecological benefits. These include:
- Improving water quality within the catchment by acting as a natural filter and reducing the amount of sediment entering adjacent watercourses;
- Reduce peak flow rates lower down the valley by retaining water during periods of heavy rainfall and releasing water during periods of drought;
- Ensuring that the bog remains a net sink of carbon by re-wetting the land, preventing the oxidisation of the peat and thus the release of carbon back into the atmosphere and promoting capture of further carbon.
A big part of the project includes the involvement of the local communities to raise awareness of the work that is being undertaken and explain the aims of the project. Some of the groups involved with the project include pupils from Ysgol Dyffryn Nantlle and volunteers from Snowdonia Society.
Peter Jones, Natural Resources Wales member of the multi-agency Welsh Peatlands Action Group said:
“Restoring peatlands is essential. If all carbon in peatlands was to be lost to the atmosphere it would be equivalent to almost 15 years’ worth of Wales’s total CO2 emissions – or 97 years’ worth of CO2 emissions from Welsh agriculture and land use… Peatlands harbour a wealth of rare plants and wildlife – birds such as curlew and golden plover as well as rare insects and plants. They also help store water which can reduce the risk of flooding in lower lying areas. And they help purify our water supplies.”
Over fifty per cent of Wales’s semi-natural peatland habitats are now being managed in a sustainable way, helping to lock in carbon that could otherwise be released into the atmosphere contributing to climate change. The Welsh Government’s target for peat restoration covers around three quarters of Wales’s total peat area. If fully restored, emissions would be reduced by around 168,000 tonnes every year.