To extend the grazing range of sheep, cattle, and even deer, but also to improve agricultural output (or yield) throughout Scotland, thousands of miles of drainage was built into the Lowlands’ and Highlands’ landscape during the 18th, 19th, and 20th century. Manually at first, but more advanced later on with mechanically built underground drainage systems, vast areas of peatland and bogs were drained. Unknown at the time, as CO2 emissions of course weren’t considered, it is estimated that over 8 million tons of CO2 was released into the atmosphere in Scotland alone. Also, the loss of biodiversity due to these nationwide, and government funded drainage activities, was profound.
In a groundbreaking effort, Alladale launched a peatland restoration project in the winter of 2012, in close collaboration with the company ICAP. Under the banner of Peatland Plus, about which you can read more here, an impressive area of 224 hectares at Alladale was allocated to see all drainage blocked. The project finished in March 2013, with a total of 4,000 small dams and blockages having been built into the designated site.
A 1995 study by Cannell and Miine shows that ‘About 40 times more carbon is stored in peat than all the vegetation in the UK’. This makes for a massive opportunity in Scotland to contribute to the global need to capture and store CO2, considering the below image. Alladale recognised this potential as early as 2012. The UN recognised the need for global peatland restoration in 2014, as can be read here.