Protecting Peat Bog Is Big

Andrew Coupar, a NatureScot peatlands expert, at the Forsinard visitor centre. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

If you go to the home improvement center, or any gardening shop, you will see this stuff in plastic bags, ranging in size from small pillow to half-bale. If you purchase it you are buying into a destructive practice that goes beyond the destruction of amazingly beautiful landscape. If heritage status helps end that, we are all for it:

World heritage status for Scottish peat bogs could help UK hit net zero goals

Hopes rise that the Flow Country, the world’s largest carbon store, could become first peatland to win the status

Ecologists estimate that while peatlands cover only 3% of the Earth’s land surface, they hold 30% of the carbon stored on land. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Andrew Coupar has crouched down by a small pool, its surface peppered with the small stalks of bogbean. In autumn its dark green oval leaves echo the muted browns, greens and ochres of the surrounding peatland.

In spring, however, the bogbean’s pink-fringed white flowers put on a remarkable display, carpeting the cluster of pools that mirror the blue skies and light clouds above and, along the horizon to west, the mountains of Sutherland.

“To me it always looks out of place, because it looks such an exotic flower; white, pink and frilly,” said Coupar, a peatlands expert with NatureScot, a government conservation agency. “If you’d never seen one before and you came walking along, you would say ‘Wow, what’s that doing here?’”

Surrounding those pools near Forsinard, a hamlet and train stop on the single-track line to Wick, are a host of other diminutive plants: tiny carnivorous sundew, white-tipped fronds of bog cotton, the bright pinks and purples of cross-leaved heath and common heather, yellow-flowered bog asphodel, bog myrtle and moist cushions of sphagnum moss.

Black darter dragonfly, the gold-ringed dragonfly and four-spotted chaser rest on the rocks and leaves. The pools attract rare waders such as dunlin, golden plover and the red-throated diver, while squadrons of pink-footed and greylag geese fly in to nest and breed, their cries echoing over the gently undulating landscape.

These species are the stars of the Flow Country, a vast expanse of almost uninterrupted blanket bog that stretches over about 4,000 sq km of Caithness and Sutherland – an area larger than Hampshire or Kent.

Read the whole article here.

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