In this project we looked at what makes people care about peatland restoration. Peatbogs are important because of their ability to store carbon, regulate water flows and provide a home for rare species of plants and animals. Nevertheless, peatbogs are often described as a hard-to-love ‘Cinderella habitat’. Focusing on care can add further insights into why people care, support and do peatland restoration.
Our results (paper currently in review) highlight the importance of personal experiences and relationships with peatbogs to develop an appreciation for peatbogs. The results also point to different perceptions of what it means to care for peatbogs and difficult questions about how to find the right balance between protecting peatbogs and engaging people with them.
Successful peatbog restoration therefore requires structures (e.g. flexible funding schemes) which can support restoration while also enabling people to care for and interact with peatbogs and learn through experience.
Peatbogs are a prominent part of the Scottish landscape covering approximately 20% of Scotland’s land surface. While most people associate peatbogs with getting wet feet (or peaty whisky), they are also home to specialist plants and animals which are often not found elsewhere (such as the carnivorous sundew plant). In addition, peatbogs help to regulate water flow and thereby prevent flooding and to store carbon.
As a large proportion of Scottish peatbogs have been degraded to some degree they are in need of restoration. In this project we looked at what makes people care for peatbogs which have been described as an unloved Cinderella habitat and what factors influence people’s capacity to take care of peatbogs.
We conducted two workshops, one in a rural area and one in a near-urban area, interviewed 28 people involved in peatbog restoration in different ways (in a professional role, volunteers/local community members and land owners/managers) and who took part in volunteering activities in peatbogs.