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Management/Restoration of Lowland Raised Bogs

Option closed to new applications

Introduction

Lowland raised bogs are a rare and threatened habitat. Managing them for conservation purposes will not only benefit biodiversity, it can also contribute to flood management, erosion control downstream and carbon storage. In combination with a range of management Options, this Option aims to bring lowland raised bogs into favourable condition by ensuring that management is undertaken with the conservation of lowland bog as the key priority and to the best possible standards.

Over the past 100 years, the area of relatively undisturbed lowland raised bog in the UK is estimated to have diminished by around 94%, from 95,000 hectares to approximately 6,000 hectares today. Historically, the greatest decline has occurred through afforestation, peat extraction and agricultural intensification, including drainage. These activities have all contributed to the drying out of the bogs. The key to achieving good condition is the maintenance or restoration of suitable water levels.

This Option is required to meet the Scottish Ministers target for bringing special features into favourable condition.

Where a lowland raised bog is bounded by improved grassland or arable crop, you should consider creating and managing a buffer around that bog in accordance with 'Management of Buffer Areas for fens and Lowland raised bogs' Option.

What this will achieve

Healthy peatlands trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into peat, but peat that is drying out can release greenhouse gases. The plants that grow on raised bogs, such as Sphagnum mosses, Bog Cotton and heathers, have adapted to grow and thrive in wet conditions with few nutrients. Bogs also support a wide range of insects such as butterflies, moths, dragonflies and damselflies.

What you can do

A. Management Plan

Your application for this Option must be supported by a specialist management plan to identify any management required to protect and enhance your site, with lowland bog conservation as the key management priority. The plan will provide an audit of the current extent, condition and management of the bog and include guidance on suitable grazing regimes and any additional work required to secure its maintenance and recovery, with bog conservation as the key management priority.

Requirements

  • keep the peat and vegetation of the bog surface intact, undisturbed and as wet as possible. You should apply these principles when carrying out any positive management of the bog, such as grazing, and when vehicles are essential for the conservation management of the bog
  • monitor the site each year to ensure that the peatland habitats are in good condition, and submit an annual monitoring report with your claim form
  • you will identify any ditch blocking work required to protect and enhance your site. If ditch blocking is required to bring your site into good condition you must block ditches to raise the water table to the bog surface or to within 15 cm of the surface. This element of the plan is mandatory as the conservation value of the bog relies on elevated water levels. Ditch blocking work is supported as a capital item.

As part of your Management Plan, you will ensure that the following activities are not carried out:

  • muirburn, unless specified in the Management Plan
  • peat extraction
  • cultivation
  • the use of fertilisers, including  manures
  •  the use of pesticides, except for herbicides which may only be applied in consultation with SEPA and with the prior written agreement of Scottish Ministers for activities such as spot treatment of scheduled weeds (i.e. creeping, spear or field thistle, curled or broadleaved dock and common ragwort) or non-native invasive species (i.e. Giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam, Rhododendron ponticum or Japanese knotweed)
  • track creation, unless specified in the Management Plan
  • tree planting
  • dumping of any materials
  • overgrazing
  • digging or clearing out ditches, unless specified in the Management Plan.

Your plan may also identify a number of additional management operations such as woodland clearance, seedling tree removal, scrub clearance and grazing management. However, these operations are not mandatory and need only be undertaken where required on the individual site.

  • woodland clearance: clear plantation and other woodland where it is affecting the hydrology of a raised bog and curbing its ability to support bog vegetation. This Option will target raised bogs, typically open areas dominated by heather, Bog Cotton Grass and Sphagnum mosses. It is not appropriate for sites that support bog woodland; a very specific type of native, wet woodland community. Woodland clearance is supported as a capital item
  • seedling tree removal: clear tree seedlings where they have the potential to significantly adversely affect the hydrology of a raised bog and its ability to support bog vegetation. Seedling tree removal is supported as a capital item
  • scrub clearance: remove scrub and prevent re-colonisation by herbicide treatment and/or the introduction of stock. Scrub clearance is supported as a capital item
  • grazing: continue, or introduce grazing to control the growth of heather and re-growth of scrub. Grazing will be open all year but will be limited to dry spells of weather. Ground conditions on the site must be assessed to determine when stock are introduced or removed. Grazing must be removed if poaching is evident. Grazing management is supported as a supplement (Option B below)

B. Grazing Management

Grazing will help to maintain open peatland, with a diverse wetland surface in terms of structure and species composition and will also help to restore and maintain an open habitat. To be eligible to receive a supplement you must produce and implement a Grazing Management Plan which fulfils the following criteria:

The Grazing Management Plan must detail the maintenance of cover and abundance of characteristic bog plants such as Sphagnum and Bog Cotton. Ideally, the ground vegetation will be composed of a low (5-25 cm above the peat surface), patchy canopy of heather, cross-leaved heath and cotton grass. The peat surface vegetation will form an irregular patchwork of mainly Sphagnum mosses forming hummocks and hollows. Some regeneration, e.g. of birch, may be present. This must be kept in check by grazing. Fences, troughs and/or stock bridges may need to be installed, or tracks created through the heather, to encourage farm livestock to graze across the whole site.

You can graze your site in any month of the year during drier spells of weather. Ground conditions on the site should be assessed to determine when stock are introduced and removed. Winter grazing should be limited due to the low food value of vegetation in winter and the increased risk of poaching.

Where birch scrub and/or purple moor grass are a problem, grazing should focus on these areas during March, April and May. You must stop grazing where poaching is evident.

If possible, choose a traditional breed of farm livestock to graze your bog. They are hardier and well suited to grazing on bog habitats. They are also less selective grazers and will control scrub and heather growth more effectively. The main traditional breeds that are considered to be most appropriate for grazing lowland raised bog habitats are listed below:

 

Cattle

Sheep

Aberdeen Angus

Blackface

Ayrshire

Hebridean

Belted Galloway

Soay

Galloway

 

Highland

 

Luing

 

Shetland

 

Shorthorn

 

You must submit a record of your grazing management, including numbers and types of stock and dates of stock movements. You will use the Monitoring Guidance note for a description of the method and a sample record form to record stock management, on a monthly basis.

C. Monitoring and Maintaining Dams

If ditch blocking is carried out, dams should be inspected at least twice a year. You will also carry out any minor maintenance work to prevent the dams from leaking. You will submit an annual monitoring report of any monitoring and maintenance work with your claim form, preferably with photographic evidence.

D. Monitoring Tree and Scrub Re-growth

Where woodland clearance, seedling tree or scrub removal is carried out, you will make an inspection of any tree seedling establishment, and/or tree and scrub re-growth each summer. An annual monitoring report of this inspection shall be provided with the annual claim, preferably with photographic evidence.

A collaborative approach is highly desirable.
Where the whole hydrological unit is brought under positive management it will be much more effective.

Who can apply (including geographical element)

All land managers are eligible to apply for this Option.

Eligibility criteria

This Option will have restricted availability. It will be available for all areas where lowland raised bogs occur and especially sites designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Natura sites. However, priority will be given to those applications that meet the needs of a whole site (a hydrological unit), including collaborative applications across several holdings. The woodland clearance and seedling tree removal management Options will be available both on and immediately adjacent to the target site.

Land receiving payments for similar management under other agri-environment schemes is not eligible under this Option.

Please see the Definitions of Land Types page for more details.

What costs could be supported

For a comprehensive list of Capital Items click here. Any cost claimed must be fully justified. The following are examples of what may be claimed:

When completing your Proposal, you can select the appropriate capital item(s) from the dropdown list of standard cost capital items for this Option.

In addition to the above capital items, financial support of up to 100% of eligible actual costs is available in respect of the following:

Please note that these capital items will not appear in the dropdown list of Standard Cost capital items for this Option and will need to be entered manually in the box for Actual Cost capital items. Only costs for the types of capital works listed above should be entered in the Actual Cost capital items box for this Option. Any other costs entered cannot be considered for funding.

To ensure value for money we require you to provide 2 competitive quotes for any capital items applied for which are based on actual cost. If, however, you are seeking grant support towards something so specialised it is only available through 1 source then we would accept 1 quote. Please see the guidance on quotes and estimates for more information.

Rate of support

This is a 5-year commitment. An annual monitoring report must be completed and submitted with each annual Single Application Form.

Payment rate £40 per hectare each year.

A supplement of £43 per hectare each year is available for the grazing management Option.

Inspections/verification

The inspector will check the requirements (as detailed above under 'what you can do') of the Option are being met, by a visual assessment on the day of inspection.

Beneficiaries must comply with the requirements of cross compliance and the minimum requirements for fertiliser and plant protection products. You must also comply with the requirements to avoid damaging any features of historic or archaeological interest, and follow Scottish Ministers' guidance for the protection of such areas or features (detailed in links below).

The following is a brief overview of the inspection procedures, for a full explanation please see links below:

Inspectors will check:

  • Management Plan is being used
  • Grazing plan is being used
  • Proposed works have been carried out
  • Buffer areas are in place and being managed properly
  • You are monitoring the success of your management plan
  • No cultivations, peat extraction, dumping, tree planting or overgrazing has taken place on the site
  • No muirburn, track creation, or ditch clearing unless specified in the Management Plan
  • Visual check to ensure no fertiliser/ FYM/Slurry or
  • Pesticides records to ensure herbicides have not been applied to the site
  • Claimed capital items have been completed to approved amounts and scheme standards

When you submit your claim the Area Office will verify:

  • That annual reports for monitoring the condition of the site, dam maintenance, tree and scrub re-growth and grazing management are submitted with the claim.

List of links to relevant technical guidance