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Peat land could earn some money

ACTIVE peat bog conservation could become a new income source for farmers and crofters, should research undertaken by Aberdeen University be taken on board by politicians.

Peat bogs are the UK’s largest carbon store and are increasingly seen as a natural resource that is vital to protect.

The country’s peat lands, of which there is plenty in Shetland, are keeping 3 billion tonnes of damaging carbon dioxide locked away from the earth’s atmosphere.

They also provide 70 per cent of Britain’s drinking water and play a key role in supporting rare animal and plant species.

Dr Mark Reed said that healthy peat absorbs and stores carbon, but when degrading this process is effectively reversed.

Academics from the University of Aberdeen are amongst those tasked with producing guidance for policymakers on how peat bogs can be restored and preserved.

These recommendations are likely to include advice that those who farm on peat lands are proportionately compensated for the amount of work they undertake to preserve this natural resource.

Dr Reed, of the university’s school of geosciences said: “The measures we suggest are likely to include a rethink on how landowners and managers are compensated for their work in maintaining peat bogs.

“Currently compensation is allocated according to the area of peatland which is owned.  But our suggestion would be that instead they are rewarded based on the value and level of their work in preserving and restoring this precious natural resource. Essentially those who do more would be compensated more.

“This would not require more funding but rather a redistribution of funding already in place to support peat bog conservation.”

Commissioned by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Peatland Programme and the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU), Dr Reed is working with nine other UK universities and research institutes on the project.