Major peatland restoration at South Lanarkshire wind farm

Important peatland stretching across an area larger than 180 football pitches is being restored at a wind farm in South Lanarkshire.

The work will significantly increase the land’s ability to absorb climate-warming carbon and boost wildlife biodiversity in the area.

Banks Renewables is repairing peat bogs at the site of its Kype Muir Wind Farm, which had previously been used for commercial forestry, as part of a 25-year habitat management plan.

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Work being carried out will also improve habitat for a wide variety of animal and plant life, including the endangered black grouse – a priority species under NatureScot’s national action plan.

Robin Winstanley is sustainability and external affairs manager at Banks Renewables, which operates Kype Muir wind farm in South Lanarkshire and is spearheading a 25-year plan to restore important peatland at the site

Robin Winstanley, sustainability and external affairs manager at Banks Renewables, said: “When the land was commercially forested, large areas were drained to try to help trees grow.

“This led to large areas becoming dried out, leading to a loss of some plant and animal species.

“The key focus of our habitat management plan to date is to re-establish the natural soil saturation of the peat in order to encourage biodiversity and restore its carbon capture properties.”

As part of the management plan, Banks Renewables will also be planting a number of broadleaf trees to benefit black grouse in the area.

The firm has also created or upgraded more than nine miles of on-site access tracks to create a network of paths across the site that are available for people to walk and run on.

Kype Muir’s habitat management plan will be reviewed every year, in line with best practice and guidance from NatureScot and South Lanarkshire Council, with the first progress report already yielding positive results.

Winstanley added: “The progress report has already highlighted many positives in terms of habitat creation.

“We have removed redundant tree tubes and weeded out commercial trees where necessary to encourage bog restoration and the establishment of peat-forming species.

“We have already started to see re-wetting of areas and the emergence of peat-forming species.

“We’re looking forward to watching the habitat return to peatland.”

Nearly a quarter of the Scottish landscape is covered in peatlands, which are globally important sinks for carbon.

Estimates suggest more than 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon – or 140 years’ worth of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions – are stored in Scottish peatlands alone.

The habitat also helps to provide clean water for drinking and supports myriad wildlife species.

But much of the bogs are in a dried-out and damaged condition due to historical land management techniques, which reverses their carbon-capture abilities and turns the sites into emitters of greenhouse gases.

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Studies suggest that between 1940 and 1980 up to 21 per cent of Scotland’s healthy bog habitats were dried out, mainly as a result of afforestation and associated drainage.

In 2020 the Scottish Government announced a £250 million funding package to support peatland restoration over a ten-year period, with a target of restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030.

More than 25,000 hectares of previously damaged habitat have already benefited directly from restoration activities.

In South Lanarkshire less than six per cent of the land is classified as peatland.

Increasing the number of healthy bogs is a key aim of the Upland Ecosystem Action Plan in the region’s Local Biodiversity Action Plan.

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