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Project Overview: Realising the Natural Capital of Welsh Peatlands 

Realising the Natural Capital of Welsh Peatlands (or the Welsh Peatlands SMS project) is Welsh Government funded project that works to improve the condition and management, appreciation and understanding of Wales’ peatlands for the benefit of all; through the delivery of practical restoration works, unlocking new sources of funding, promoting best peatland management practice, increasing the awareness and enjoyment of Welsh peatlands, and improving the evidence base on Welsh peatlands.

Swansea University’s role in the project

Swansea University helped write the project proposal and is responsible for delivering a work package to build and coordinate peatland research in Wales (project output 10). To deliver this output the project funds the role of Welsh Peatland Research hub Coordinator, who is hosted and employed by Swansea University.

Overall, we will collate and make more readily available existing scientific evidence, as well as developing new research programmes to fill key knowledge gaps in peatland management, provision of ecosystem services and climate change impacts on peatland resources. There are four specific aims:

⦁ Create a Welsh peatland research database
⦁ Build peatland research capacity in Wales
⦁ Create and secure Welsh peatland research platforms
⦁ Generate funding bids for Welsh peatland research

Create a Welsh peatland research database

Collate a spatially searchable database of peat-related Welsh research based on a combination of i) published scientific literature, ii) grey literature from research organisations and agencies responsible for managing Welsh peatlands commissioning research work.
Map

Here is a map showing the distribution of deep peat (>40cm) in Wales (brown) and its occurrence within 5x5 km tiles across Wales (green).

We know where research has been carried out on Welsh peatlands. This map shows the number of research papers within the 5x5 km tiles that contain deep peat as a heat map – the warmer the colour the more papers have been published using data from the peatlands within the tile.

This map enables us to identify the peatland sites where the most published research papers has originated – these sites are identified on the map.

Peat Map 2

We know where research has been carried out on Welsh peatlands. This map shows the number of research papers within the 5x5 km tiles that contain deep peat as a heat map – the warmer the colour the more papers have been published using data from the peatlands within the tile.

This map enables us to identify the peatland sites where the most published research papers has originated – these sites are identified on the map.

Peat Map 3

We know which organisations have carried out and published research on Welsh peatlands. The graph shows the organisations that have authored the most research papers on Welsh peatlands.

This will identify the organisations and researchers who are working in Wales, but importantly also researchers / institutions who are not currently working in Wales.

Peat map 4

We know where they have carried out thier research. This map shows the research locations of the 12 organisations that have authored the most papers on Welsh Peatlands.

This will help identify potential lead organaistaions and partners in future research initiative son Welsh peatlands.

Peat Map 5

We know what research subjects or themes have been the focus the published research on Welsh peatlands to date.
This will help us understand what are the major gaps in research topics / themes.

With further analysis we will know what subjects or themes are addressed by the different organisations and where they have been investigated. Overall, we will have a detailed understanding of the Welsh peatland research landscape to aid the development of a research community across Wales, inform the location of the network of peatland research sites across Wales, and identify the evidence gaps and opportunities for filling these gaps.

We know which organisations have carried out and published research on Welsh peatlands. The graph shows the organisations that have authored the most research papers on Welsh peatlands.

This will identify the organisations and researchers who are working in Wales, but importantly also researchers / institutions who are not currently working in Wales.

Unpublished research and long-term monitoring reports and initiatives

A start has been made on capturing unpublished completed PhD theses, and ongoing PhD studies; long-term peatland monitoring initiatives and reports; and live research and monitoring projects.

Build peatland research capacity in Wales

Identifying (priority) evidence gaps in the sustainable management of Welsh Peatlands

To inform the Welsh peatland research agenda we are creating a database of evidence gaps (or just knowledge gaps) across all aspects of peatland management and interests - including policy and practitioners, including, NGOs, arms-length Government agencies and private land owners and managers.

We are asking the Welsh peatland community of interest what are their evidence (knowledge) gaps that answering would enable them to: undertake; better plan; deliver more, or more effective, sustainable peatland management?

We have a very simple and quick online questionnaire that can be accessed and completed online here. This questionnaire will be live until November 2020. A final database and summary can be produced in December 2020.

We are also collating the peatland research recommendations presented in published scientific papers and unpublished research outputs.

We are aiming to prioritise these evidence gaps, or research questions, to co-produce with the community of interest in Welsh peatlands a research strategy for Welsh peatlands.

This will help develop a research programme and proposals in collaboration with peatland owners and managers and researchers.

Again, we hope that the evidence gaps database will be web-based and available to be updated by the community of users after the end of the Welsh Peatland SMS project.

Create and secure Welsh peatland research platforms

Provisionally called the ‘Welsh Peatland Observatory Network’ we are leading on establishing a network of peatland research sites across Wales where ‘we’ can address the priority evidence gaps in the sustainable management of Welsh peatlands in a coordinated and efficient and way. The network will cover the major peatland habitats and typologies represented in Wales.

The SMS project team, led by Swansea University are working to develop a draft scientific scope for the network and longlist candidate sites and partners. This will go out to consultation with wider peatland research and land management community across Wales.

The broad aims are to evidence:
⦁ Sustainable peatland management (including restoration and conservation)
⦁ Current and ongoing condition status and change
⦁ Ecosystem resilience and adaptation
⦁ Provision of ecosystem services
⦁ Contribution of peatlands to well-being (of future generations)

Generate funding bids for Welsh peatland research

In collaboration with other research organisations and partner we have developed research proposals to investigate new methods for mapping Welsh peatlands, human-biting arthropods and impact of restoration, use of internet of things technology for monitoring peatlands and research fellowships for exchanging research evidence; contributing peatland research activities to the delivery phase proposal of the ‘Lost Peatlands of South Wales Project’ (a Lottery Fund proposal led by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council).


For more information contact:

Dr. Jonathan Walker
Welsh Peatlands Research Hub Coordinator
Dept of Biosciences
Room 223 Wallace Building
College of Science
Swansea University
SA2 8PP

Email: j.s.walker@swansea.ac.uk