Peat Bog restoration in the Scottish Borders working with multiple partners
The area in question amounted to approximately 8.3 hectares and was planted in 1970.
There were various difficulties with working the site and multiple stakeholders in the area who all had a vested interest with respect to access over the main haul route.
A significant amount of the crop was within striking distance of the rail network. This required the correct permissions to work within proximity of a busy transport route.
A whole tree felling operation with previously stocked area to be flooded and returned to a peat bog.
Conversations with colleagues in Scottish Woodlands’ utilities department indicated that the best route to follow would be through the ‘Asset Protection Department’ at Network Rail who requested a site visit so a suitable plan could be put in place to fell ‘high risk’ trees safely. It was agreed the safest way to clear the trees would be to dismantle the tops into 2m sections along the outside row leaving a screen of 10m poles running parallel to the rail line.
This would screen the harvester while the machines fell the remaining standing crop of trees and would act as a barrier to protect passing trains. The poles would be later felled by harvester under the supervision of Network Rail, where they had placed an operative on the ground overseeing the final felling of the poles.
The whole tree operation was very well-planned, with a tracked machine with a 12-metre reach felling two rows into one.
A second tracked unit with a ‘claw’ grab lifted the wood once the harvesting unit had finished and presented it in tidy heaps for the forwarder to collect and extract to the roadside.
In this instance the forwarder does not leave or need to leave the brash mat (small branches and logs) thereby recovering almost all of the material ready for the chipper. The overall effect on site is very impressive with little or no ground damage to be seen.
The contractor used for the operation had all the necessary equipment and carried out the operation to a high standard where very little ground damage can be seen.
The operation went well with the landowner very happy with the result, we achieved approximately 1750 tonnes off the 8.3-hectare site, amounting to a recovery of approximately 213 tonnes per hectare.
The alternative felling method and whole tree extraction will benefit the peatland restoration by allowing:
- A means of removing trees that would otherwise likely be left standing, the benefit being that the end result is a site that is closer to the ideal state for rewetting;
- An alternative method of removing the trees compared to mulching, the benefit being a reduced cost of removing the trees as a mulching machine will usually be far more costly;
- more unwanted nutrients to be removed from the site (assuming no brash and only the stump is left in situ), again the benefit being that the end result is a site closer to the ideal state for rewetting; and
- Less of an impact on the peat habitat and less disturbance to the bog due to the whole tree method causing less ground damage than traditional methods.