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Restoration and recovery of Sphagnum on degraded blanket bog

Rosenburgh, Angus Ewan (2015) Restoration and recovery of Sphagnum on degraded blanket bog. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

1. The blanket bogs of the southern Pennines and Peak District are severely degraded, attributed to centuries of poor land management, wildfire and atmospheric pollution. Restoration efforts have focussed on the revegetation of bare and eroding peat surfaces, with considerable success. 2. Sphagnum mosses provide the form and function of blanket bog, with their remains making up the majority of the peat body. These species were lost from the region and remain largely absent, despite restoration efforts. 3. As a keystone species of peatlands, their return is essential to the continued provision of ecosystem services derived from these uplands. Hence, their reintroduction is of great importance. 4. Preliminary trials determined Sphagnum can be reintroduced to numerous degraded conditions found on blanket peat, with S. fallax the best performing species. Water availability was strongly implicated as a significant factor, with drought proving fatal to propagules. In areas of dense vegetation, flailing has the potential to increase establishment, but requires further verification. 5. Growth trials indicated the legacy of atmospheric pollution was still exerting influence upon the growth of Sphagnum. Peat from the southern Pennines region was shown to contain elevated concentration of numerous pollutant heavy metals and nutrients. A comparative study of some UK bogs demonstrated the consequences of biogeochemical characteristics, whilst further implicating the importance of water availability in degraded sites. 6. The potential of Sphagnum reintroduction to degraded sites was demonstrated, within the constraints of shorter time scales. Over longer periods, with increased experimentation and subsequent monitoring, further understanding will undoubtedly be gathered. It is essential this knowledge is shared, updated and applied by conservation agencies and parties conducting such work.

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