Celebrating Peatlands

February 12 saw the launch of ‘Celebrating Peatlands’ a landmark Broads Authority initiative in collaboration with their North Sea Region Partnership, CANAPE (Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems). 

This match-funded project has secured more than 500,000 euros from the European Regional Development Fund to research new ways of managing peatland ecosystems for the benefit of the environment. This exciting new project looks at finding new uses for wetland material in the form of sustainable soil improvers and charcoal as well as engaging with the public so that everybody from students to landowners understand the fragility and importance of their local Peatland landscapes.

Peat coring school

The Broads Authority will be trialling the creation of a different kind of fuel from the Broads, by turning natural waste, wood and reed into charcoal and biochar using a transportable kiln. The kiln, known as a carbon composter, burns biomass in reduced-oxygen conditions. The outcome of this process are two exciting new products, charcoal for cooking or heating and fine biochar which can be added to soil to improve its quality. The sustainably produced charcoal will be available for the public to purchase from May 2019.

Working with local farmers and growers, the Broads Authority will also be producing soil improvers from reed that is cut in order to maintain nature reserves. The reed soil improver aims to boost soil organic matter, helping growers hold more water and nutrients in their soils. It is hoped that this could help improve the water quality leaving these fields and improve soil structure.

Alongside the production of the sustainable products, a public engagement programme will be undertaken from July 2019 to highlight the importance of peat and its management. This includes working with students from East Norfolk sixth form and Hobart High School, who will take deep peat cores around the Broads. With these new skills students will help teach their peers and the community all about peat coring at a series of events. There will also be engagement with local reed-cutters to better understand where their reed and sedge beds need to be protected and even expanded. In addition to this the Broads Authority will be working with those farmers and land managers who are custodians of Peatland ecosystems to look at the environmental benefits, such as flood management and carbon capture, which result when people manage the landscape in alternative ways.

The project has been overseen by the Broads Authority’s Senior Ecologist, Andrea Kelly who has said at the launch of the initiative,

“Today we are celebrating Peatlands and highlighting the importance of their management with the launch of the Broads Peatland Project. We will be finding new uses for wetland material by developing products and new ways of engaging with local people. It’s vital that Peatlands are protected. Their good management leads to carbon retention while their bad management causes CO2 to be realised having a negative impact on climate change. Hopefully these projects are the first of many steps to significantly improve the Peatland ecosystems of the Broads National Park.”

Tuesday 12 February 2019