EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Managing UK upland peat for greenhouse gas removal

Martin Evans1, Jonny Ritson1, Rebecca Self1, Fred Worrall2, Chris Evans3, and Richard Lindsay4
Martin Evans et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom
  • 3Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Bangor, United Kingdom
  • 4Ecology, Conservation and Sustainability, University of East London, London

Much of UK upland peat is in a drained and/or degraded state, meaning it is a net source of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Typical restoration methods, such as rewetting, can improve this, however most restoration projects only achieve a lowering or cessation of emissions with few achieving a net-negative carbon balance. In this new demonstrator project, Greenhouse Gas Reduction – Peat, we are trialling methods of supressing methane emissions as well increasing carbon sequestration so that carbon negative restoration projects can be achieved.

The projects aims to accelerate the transition from degraded, burn-managed heather (Calluna vulgaris) bog to actively peat-forming bog, while minimising wildfire risk and CH4 emissions. We will present preliminary results and further plans for three techniques, trialled alongside typical gully blocking:

1) Sphagnum planting: This ‘nature-based’ intervention will involve Sphagnum (a peat forming moss species) establishment using micropropagated assemblages of hummock-forming species which show the highest rates of C accumulation. During the first years of Sphagnum growth, CO2 sequestration may be in excess of long-term peat accumulation rates as a functional upper ‘acrotelm’ layer re-establishes. Sphagnum can also act as a CH4 biofilter, improving the net greenhouse gas balance.

2) Heather mowing and biochar production: As an alternative to managed burning, we will harvest old heather biomass using low-ground pressure vehicles, followed by biochar production and re-application. Biomass removal will reduce wildfire risk, while controlled pyrolysis will avoid damage to Sphagnum/peat from burning, and enhance biomass conversion to biochar above that achieved in uncontrolled burns.

3) Suppression of methane production: CaSO4  can supress methane formation by offering a more energetically favourable metabolic pathway to microbes, meaning sulphate reducing bacteria are more active than methanogenic bacteria. This essentially ‘nudges’ the bacterial population in a direction more favourable for greenhouse gas balances.

How to cite: Evans, M., Ritson, J., Self, R., Worrall, F., Evans, C., and Lindsay, R.: Managing UK upland peat for greenhouse gas removal, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-3576,, 2023.