Peatland restoration could make a considerable contribution in achieving national emission targets and is a vital part of Scotland’s strategy in moving towards net zero emissions. However, there is currently limited available information on the (monetary) costs and benefits of peatland restoration, which is important to inform project appraisals and policy development.
In this project, we characterized and analyzed peatland restoration activities and costs, using data collected as part of the grant application and reporting process for the Peatland Action Programme (PAP) in Scotland. The most recent analysis (2022) estimates median restoration cost per hectare to be £1026 based on actually incurred costs. Restoration costs are found to vary depending on the restoration activities implemented, as well as on the initial peatland condition. We also show how reported restoration costs and activities are distributed across Scotland.
StageWork in Progress
Peatland restoration is increasingly perceived by policy and decision makers in the UK, across Europe and the world, as a relatively cost-effective way to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Evidence and knowledge of the costs and benefits of restoration is therefore crucial in informing policy decisions aimed at mitigating climate change. In this context, this research aims to improve our knowledge of peatland restoration costs and factors affecting it, through the systematic collation of a database of restoration sites.
Information on the cost of peatland restoration is currently patchy and fragmented, and often based on limited data. Our work resulted in the creation of a database that we plan to continuously update as new information on costs related to the PAP becomes available. To the best of our knowledge, there is currently no comparable database available for the UK, and for peatlands - at least across regions with temperate climates.
The database used information collected as part of the Peatland Action Programme, funded by Scottish Government and administered by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), between 2016 and 2019. Data collection and analysis were performed with the support of researchers and analysts from the University of Leeds (Julia Martin-Ortega) and Scottish’s Natural Heritage (Mahboobeh Shirkhorshidi and Andrew McBride).
In 2022, 142 unique projects covering 323 restoration sites in Scotland, of which data from 300 sites was considered suitable for further analysis of restoration costs.
Peatland restoration can be undertaken using a range of techniques; see ‘A comparative analysis of the costs and merits of different restoration methods’, ‘Data from the Peatland Action Programme and their use for evaluations of ecosystem benefits’, and in the PAP project resources.
We found peatland restoration costs vary depending on the restoration activities implemented, as well as on the initial peatland condition. 2020 results indicate that restoration costs per hectare (based on the completed forms) average £1227. In a 2021 update of results, average costs per hectare are estimated as £1878. In the most recent update (2022) of results, we find that mean costs per hectare remain similar in magnitude (£1896).
The calculated average costs are distorted by a small number of sites with a relatively high cost per hectare, therefore it is more informative to refer to the median cost, which is lower at £955 (2020), £1000 (2021) and $1026 (2022). Project management costs (excluding support offered through Peatland Action and its officers) and in-kind contributions are estimated to account on for 6-7% of total restoration costs (median estimate for 2022).
Restoration costs are higher in the presence of forest-to-bog restoration activities. The restoration cost per hectare on sites that are actively eroding and involve removal of scrub and forestry were also found to be higher than for sites without these characteristics.
For the purpose of this project, restoration activities were broadly categorized into the following five categories:
A) Ditch (grip) blocking;
B) Hag, gully and bare peat restoration;
D) Forest to bog restoration; and
E) Scrub removal.
Restoration costs were estimated by area of peatland restored. Costs included on-site restoration costs (directly linked to the implementation of restoration activities, such as ditch blocking), project management costs and, if applicable, in-kind costs.
Aside from costs, the database also includes information on the site’s characteristics (such as site use prior to restoration and potential site designations) and restoration activities proposed or undertaken. A descriptive analysis of the sites included in the database indicates that more than half of the restoration sites are either a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or National Nature Reserve (NNR). In addition, in the updated 2021 database, in terms of their current use, deer management (49%) and rough grazing (41%) are the most frequently mentioned uses, followed by biodiversity conservation (39% of sites).