Identifying factors that support or hinder peatland restoration in Scotland
Allen, Anita Kathleen Nyali
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It is estimated that peatlands cover around 20% of Scotland’s land area. Scotland’s peatlands are important ecosystems in terms of the services they provide; carbon sequestration, water chemistry and flow regulation, biodiversity, as well as for the homes and livelihoods they offer to their inhabitants. Due to historical management practices over 70% of Scotland’s peatlands are damaged to some degree, and are now in need of restoration. The remaining peat bogs need to be conserved. Peatlands are complex landscapes that require good governance in order to be managed fairly and effectively. This thesis sets out to explore the issues surrounding peatland management and offer some recommendations. Workshops were carried out in Dumfries, The Cairngorms, Thurso and Shetland in order to explore how landowners and managers perceived peatlands and peatland restoration and the potential to fund restoration through the Peatland Code Payment for Ecosystem Services Scheme. The main findings were; there was confusion over the policy concerning peatlands, landowners and managers felt uncertain of the potential carbon benefits and methods to predict them, the Peatland Code focuses on carbon benefits and landowners and managers cared more about water and wildlife. These findings prompted a more in depth study of the objectives, priorities and values of landowners and managers through the use of qualitative interviews, and a policy analysis to clarify funding options and regulations and to identify potential barriers. Sixty-seven semi-structured interviews were carried out with landowners and managers from the four regions around Scotland. These were analysed in order to find common themes. Many of the interviewees had social and environmental aims for their land, as well as financial aims. There was a very strong sense of care and responsibility for the land, which was linked to heritage, legacy and identity. Communication was poor between different groups (landowners vs crofters, locals vs incomers, landowners and managers vs NGOs, Scientists, Politicians), fostering a sense of discord or antagonism. This lead to a lack of trust and a reluctance to engage with other groups, exacerbating communication issues. Poor communication means that the good environmental intensions of evident from the interviews did not always translate into action. Exceptions to this always involved face-to-face communication, site visits, and a long term relationship allowing the build-up of trust. Policy documents relating to peatlands were reviewed. Findings were presented at a workshop attended by peatland policy experts, in order to identify gaps or misconceptions, which were then addressed. Peatlands do not have their own policy area, but are mentioned in policy related to agriculture, forestry, fresh water and biodiversity. Peatlands are most often mentioned in terms of their carbon sequestration potential. They are poorly integrated in fresh water policy. This shows a mismatch between the interests of policy-makers, and the interests of practitioners, as identified in the workshops. Funding for peatland restoration is limited, restrictive in terms of activities that will be funded, and the application process is onerous. The regulations are poorly communicated leading many to fear they will be penalised for undertaking management that is beneficial to peatlands. There are few policies with the intention of building capacity through information provision or training. The uncertainty surrounding funding options for peatland restoration may discourage contractors from diversifying in this area, leading to a shortage of people with the skills necessary to carry out the work. In all three chapters there is a common thread that the various policies and schemes created in order to facilitate conservation and restoration of peatlands do not adequately harness the feelings of care and responsibility towards the environment that are present in the landowning and managing communities. This is due to poor communication and a misunderstanding of the various perspectives of groups in these areas, leading to sometimes obstructive policies which fall short of their ambitions.