The purpose of restoration: a regulatory overview.

The purpose of restoration - a
regulatory overview
Lorna Harris (SEPA Wetland Ecologist)
January 2011
Why is SEPA involved in wetland
 Legal duties
 Water Framework Directive / WEWS (2003)
 preventing further deterioration of, and protecting and
enhancing, the status of aquatic ecosystems and,
with regard to their water needs, terrestrial
ecosystems and wetlands directly depending on
those aquatic ecosystems
 Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004)
 Natura 2000: No adverse impact on integrity at
site level
 SSSI: no likely damage to protected feature
 Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009
 Biodiversity duties
 UKBAP/ Scottish Biodiversity Strategy
What wetland types do SEPA protect?
 Types (WFD/WEWS, FRM Act, NCSA Act)
 Groundwater body dependent wetlands
(including raised bogs that depend on a high
groundwater table within bedrock)
 Surface water body dependent wetlands that
are part of surface water bodies (lochside)
 Surface water dependent wetlands that are not
part of but depend on a surface water body
(e.g. floodplain wetland features)
 Wetlands that are a designated feature of
 Wetlands that are an interest feature essential
to the functioning of a Natura 2000 site (SAC
or SPA).
 Organo-mineral soils (surface peat layers less
than 50cm thick)
 Land management affects role in combating
diffuse pollution which is regulated by SEPA
through the WEWS Act
 Fen, reedbed and wet woodland
 Contain significant quantities of peat and
waterlogged conditions often result in peat
 Groundwater and/or surface water dependent
wetlands protected under WEWS Act
 Important ‘natural features’ for requirements
under the FRM Act
 Blanket bog and raised bog
 SEPA does not regulate water related activities
on blanket or raised bog directly, but manages
impacts on the downstream water environment
and associated wetlands through WEWS
 Blanket and raised bogs are also important
‘natural features’ under the FRM Act
 Excess peat material (that cannot be re-used)
that is generated during construction activities
on peatlands is considered to be waste and is
managed through PPC (see ‘SEPA Position
Statement – Developments on Peat’)
 SEPA uses a combination of planning and
regulation (licensing) to influence the management
of peatlands.
Why are SEPA interested in
peatland restoration?
 Multiple benefits to the downstream water
environment and associated wetlands
 Improvements to water quality
 Role in sustainable natural flood
 Carbon storage and sequestration
 Biodiversity
 Fen management and restoration – WEWS and
WFD objectives
 SEPA have worked in partnership with SNH
(project lead), EA, NIEA, NE, CCW and RSPB
to develop the ‘Fen Management Handbook’
Aims of peatland restoration
 Restore the original function (habitat, carbon
store and sequestration) of the peatland
 Create the hydrological conditions required for
peat accumulation
 Raise the water table of the bog to encourage
bog species to establish
 Consider current land management practices to
achieve realistic restoration
 Existing guidance:
 FC – Deforesting and Restoring Peat Bogs: A
^ Good practice of restoration with water close to the surface and supporting bog
vegetation (bog cotton and Sphagnum)
Ditch Blocking
 Aim - retain water in bog and
slow water movement to
encourage growth of
Sphagnum moss in ditches
 Clear plan (including
timescales and map) should
be provided
 Methods for ditch blocking
explained (plastic piling, straw
bales, peat dams...)
 Guidance is available (SNH)
Ditch blocking – use of excavated peat
 Use of excavated peat from construction works
must have an ecological benefit to be exempt
from waste licensing
 Example of a suitable use - creation of peat
dams as part of peatland restoration (Habitat
Management Plans)
 Issues to consider;
 Timing – restoration must be planned in
advance of the material being excavated
 Quantity of material...
 Is the excavated peat suitable? Dry,
unconsolidated peat and surface peat
should not be used to block ditches
 Difficulties of transporting material and
access to ditches
Ditch Blocking – good practice
^ Peat dam blocking water flow in old forestry drainage ditch.
Ditch Blocking – poor practice...
Ditch blocking and CAR
 The blocking of artificial drainage ditches does
not require authorisation under CAR.
 For larger or natural watercourses please check
with the local SEPA office.
Restoration of cutover sites
 Restoration to bog
not always
possible – fen
vegetation often
more appropriate
 Aim – establish
suitable vegetation
cover, maintain
water table and
prevent problems
for downstream
water quality
Mulch and peatland restoration
 Mulch/brash is often spread across the surface of
a clearfelled peatland area (fell to waste)
 Advantages for peatland restoration?
 Blocks furrows and slows water flow for
 Provides ‘cover’ for Sphagnum growth?
 Disadvantages
 Exacerbate nutrient leaching and acidification
 Risk of leachate from decomposing brash
entering watercourses
 Dense layer prevents growth of bog species –
encourages weeds
 Carbon loss…
Does leaving mulch/brash on site
have an ecological benefit for
 For waste management exemption SEPA must ensure
that application of exempt organic waste to land will result
in ecological improvement.
 Forest Research (2010). Restoring afforested peat bogs:
results of current research
 Bog vegetation recovered best in whole-tree removal
treatments and least well in fell-to-waste treatments
 Evident that dams in main drains and furrows to raise
water table are essential for peatland restoration
 Does mulch help or hinder peatland restoration?
 There is insufficient scientific evidence to prove
that chipped, shredded or mulched material results
in ecological improvement
 SEPA’s current advice is that spreading forest
residues on a peatland does not have an
ecological benefit and therefore waste exemptions
will not apply
 Off-site and commercial applications (biomass) for
chipped material needs to be considered as a
priority and at the earliest stage in the planning
 Site specific factors to be considered
 Reasons for not moving the material off-site must be
given (cost)
 Arguments for leaving the material on site must be clearly
stated (e.g. small volume of material and minimal risk to
the environment)
What can be improved to protect
 The assessment of soil carbon, its state and
management, is currently fragmented across
several authorities. ‘SEPA advises that soil
carbon is, assessed, monitored, regulated and
protected via the planning and environmental
protection systems in a coordinated way.’
 SEPA advises that the policy agenda for
protection of peatlands in Scotland is better coordinated, including drivers such as Climate
Change Act, FRM Act, WEWS, NCSA.
 Further research on the impacts of developments
(e.g. long term hydrological impacts) and
management practices (e.g. grazing and burning)
on peatlands is required.
 Further long-term monitoring of peatland
restoration on development sites
 SEPA recognises the benefit of good practice
 ‘Good Practice during Wind Farm
Construction’ (SNH, SEPA, Scottish
Renewables, FCS)
 Good practice guidance for peatland
restoration (SNH/Macaulay project)
 Good practice guidance for wind farm
decommissioning – proposed
Long term sustainable restoration of peatlands
needs to include and optimise all ecosystem
services (environmental, social and
economic) that the peatland provides, both of
the actual area and its functioning in the wider