Highlands & Islands

Funding pledge to protect Scotland's peatland

flow country
Image caption More than 20% of Scotland is covered in peat soil

Efforts to restore degraded areas of peatland in Scotland have received a multi-million pound funding boost.

The Scottish government has announced an extra £11m in funding in addition to the £3m awarded to restoration work earlier this year.

Scotland's peatlands store an estimated 1,600 million tonnes of carbon.

Degraded areas are being restored by removing stands of commercial forestry and blocking drains and ditches to return them to wetlands.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham told BBC Scotland's The Nine that continued funding was vital to help tackle climate change.

She said: "Peatland is extraordinarily important because it locks in carbon as do trees.

"But we have a lot of degraded peat out there. If the peat is degraded instead of locking in carbon it releases carbon and we absolutely don't want that."

Image copyright Lorne Gill/SNH
Image caption Peatland stores millions of tonnes of carbon

About a quarter of Scotland is covered in peat soil.

Ms Cunningham said: "If all of the CO2 from that peatland were released then it would be the equivalent of more than 120 years of Scotland's emissions being produced at once."

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, said projects such as Peatland Action would benefit from the funding.

Since 2012, Peatland Action has worked with other organisations to restore about 46,951 acres (19,000 ha) of peatland.

Image caption The Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland is Europe's biggest peat blanket bog

Ms Osowska said: "As Scotland aims to move to a low carbon economy and meet its ambitious climate change agenda, it is important that we continue to build on the excellent work already completed."

Among the locations of the restoration work is the Flow Country, Europe's biggest blanket bog.

The 494,210-acre (200,000ha) expanse of peatbog, lochs and bog pools in Caithness and Sutherland is more than twice the size of Orkney.

There are hopes of securing Unesco World Heritage status to help better protect the Flow Country.

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