THE National Trust has begun the next stage in a climate change project to restore vital peat land on Abergwesyn common in the Cambrian Mountains.

Peat lands are hugely important in the fight against climate change. Covering only 3 per cent of the world’s surface, they store 10 per cent of its carbon – 10 times more than trees.

Peatlands across the UK are damaged, from erosion, farming and historical exploitation by being cut for fuel.

This Powys project will help restore the damaged peatlands by reprofiling peat haggs, which are cliffs of peat formed by erosion and historic cutting. These cliffs are reprofiled and covered with the existing rooted vegetation to prevent further erosion. Large, bare peat areas are covered with cut Molinia grass to create a protective vegetative layer and help establish plant communities within the peat.

This first phase of work is set to run for six weeks and then continue each year from August to October for a number of years to come. This time of year allows for ground nesting birds to have moved on and before the worst of the winter weather arrives, making access across the large expanse of peatland too difficult.

The National Trust owns 6,667 hectares of common land across Abergwesyn and this peatland work extends to around 140ha in total. There are further expanses of peatland in need of restoration which will form a much larger-reaching plan of upland management and restoration across Abergwesyn.

Peat is created very slowly at a rate of only 1mm per year; once lost it cannot quickly repair itself. It is vital that we restore this landscape to protect the land, keep the carbon locked in and look after it as habitat for flora and fauna.

Kevin Straw, lead ranger for the area, said: “We’re looking forward to continuing the work on Abergwesyn Common, this work is hugely important for protecting the land and helping tackle climate change.

“The National Trust in Wales is working hard to put projects like these at the forefront of its strategy and to put restoration of nature at its heart.”

There are four main reasons why peatlands are so important: biodiversity, carbon storage, historical value as well as water quality and quantity.

Peatlands form a unique habitat that supports a variety of plant species as well as insects, birds and mammals. Many at risk species, such as the curlew and golden plover, call peatlands home.

Peat bogs are also a huge store of carbon as the plants that grow there are not able to decompose completely, meaning the carbon in the plants become locked in the peat.

Peatlands only cover around 3 per cent of the world’s surface but contain more carbon than all of the world’s rainforests. Out of the total coverage of peat found in the world, 12 per cent is found in the UK with an estimated 70,000 hectares of upland blanket bog in Wales. Peatlands are also one of the UK’s most important terrestrial carbon stores, containing 20 times more carbon than the total number of UK forests.

Peatlands can provide a window to the past and have been known to perfectly preserve artefacts, such as tools and clothing, from thousands of years ago. In addition to this, the hydrological cycle is also affected by the condition of our peatlands. Much of the water we drink has drained off upland peatlands and is naturally filtered by the peat. They also have a role in flood prevention; a healthy peatland can hold much more water than one actively eroding and so can limit flood damage further downstream.