Case Study

Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project

Sector: Water, Natural environment
Highlights: Carbon mitigation, Ecological uplift, Biodiversity, Job creation
Project owner:  Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Shropshire Wildlife Trust
Project start: October 2016 – December 2022. Remediations March 2023 – Ongoing.
Location: Whitchurch, Shropshire and Wrexham, Wales
Community impacted: Rural
Hazards mitigated: Water stress
Case study provided by: WSP

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Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Shropshire Wildlife Trust are behind the Marches Mosses BogLIFE Project which aims to revive this important peatland, and its surrounding peat edge habitat (lagg), by restoring 2,500 acres as a healthy ecosystem. The project has resulted in safeguarding an immense carbon store and has reduced flood risk for local communities.

About the Project

The restoration of this peatland will not only boost biodiversity but will also improve the local environment’s resilience to the effects of climate change, including flood risk. Natural England approached WSP, working with WM Longreach, to manage two projects to improve hydrology (water management) within two highly sensitive parts of the Marches Mosses; the edge of Fenn’s Moss and World’s End. Both are part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).  This is the recovery of the UK’s third largest lowland raised bog at the complex of Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses National Nature Reserves and Wem Moss National Nature Reserve, all located on the England-Wales border near Whitchurch, Shropshire and Wrexham, Wales.

WSP’s role involved its specialist water engineers managing the sites and the project contractors ensuring a collaborative approach that delivered value. Responsible for worker and public health, and safety and welfare during the projects, WSP also needed to ensure that restoration work did not adversely affect neighbouring agricultural land or increase flood risk to properties in the area.

Rewetting as big an area of the nature reserve as possible was the primary aim of conservation actions. The goal was to try and achieve ‘Goldilocks’ conditions – a stable high-water table in the quest to achieve ‘bogginess’; a functioning bog requires a high-water table. In turn, this supports rare bog flora and fauna, increases the flood amelioration benefits, and importantly, protects the huge carbon store and leads to positive carbon sequestration. To try and produce the desired conditions of wetness, the novel technique of ‘peat bunds’ (low peat walls) was used to create watertight cells in a ring around the periphery of the project site. Elsewhere in the previously dammed central areas, lines of bunds were created following the ground contours known as contour bunds.

One element of the project focused on restoring World’s End Field, which is adjacent to the Bettisfield Moss, and is also located within an SSSI/SAC. The existing World’s End Drain was realigned away from the Moss and flood banks were constructed around the perimeter of the Moss to reduce flood risk. The scope included the use of 1.6 km of clay bunding to control water levels and the reinstatement of a gravity drainage system to discharge into Lord Hill Drain.

Throughout these works, WSP sought to minimise any impact on the fragile peat bog landscape and the wildlife it hosts, while also managing existing drainage systems. Exclusion zones were observed around badger setts and further special measures were taken to ensure the protection of water courses, including silt traps. Bridleways and footpaths crossing the site required tactful liaison with the public and client to ensure safe passage throughout the duration of the works.

Achieved Outcomes

Social

The social impacts in terms of volunteer engagement, communication and dissemination activities and increasing visitor numbers are also substantial, with most measures far exceeding the targets set for the project. Seven trainees were taken on during the course of the project, all of whom lived within 50 miles of the Marches Mosses and all of whom have directly progressed to full-time jobs in the nature conservation sector.  Twenty-eight volunteers increased their skills through training provided by the project, and more than 150 informative and educational events aimed at the general public were held by the project, reaching over 5,000 people.

Environmental

As a result of this project, the Mosses now have a more naturally functioning hydrology, which will enable their delicate ecosystem to regenerate. In turn, the bog, which is a refuge for rare biodiversity, is more resilient. Communities will also directly benefit from this project through its immense carbon store safeguarded and its role in flood risk reduction locally.

Economic

In terms of economic outcomes, the total gross value added (GVA) produced by the project in the local economy (i.e. within 10 miles of the Marches Mosses) is estimated to be £610,761 and the number of job years created is estimated at 30.3. The total GVA produced by the project in the regional economy (i.e. within 50 miles of the Marches Mosses and including the local economy area) is estimated to be £3,411,493 and the number of job years created is estimated at 123.3. The increase in expenditure within the regional economy from visitors living more than 50 miles away from the Marches Mosses site is estimated at around £6,500 per year. Estimated visitor numbers increased by around 70% over the course of the project, producing estimated recreational benefits to society of approximately £30,000 per year.

How has carbon mitigation been integrated?

As one of the UK’s largest carbon sinks, the restoration of this peatland will benefit countless numbers of people by enabling it to retain its carbon and not release it into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Around 96% of the UK peat bogs have been destroyed or damaged through peat cutting, agriculture and drainage. But, acting like a giant sponge, ‘mires’ can store twice as much carbon, acre for acre, than woodland. Thanks to the project, the bog is now more resilient with its amazing store of carbon safeguarded.


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