“Superhero’’ sphagnum moss reduces flood risk - Moors for the Future Partnership

close up image sphagnum moss
Sphagnum denticulatum (Des Callaghan)

New research has shown how a tiny moorland plant, sphagnum or “bog moss” can dramatically reduce the likelihood and severity of flooding downstream for communities at risk.

Six years ago, sphagnum moss was planted on Kinder Scout, the highest peak in the Peak District National Park, in an area which now forms part of the newly-extended National Nature Reserve (NNR), looked after by the National Trust. After planting, the impact of the moss was closely monitored and has now been proven to significantly slow down water running off the hills after rainfall, reducing peak streamflow (the maximum amount of water in a river after a storm), by 65%. There is a similarly remarkable increase in the time it takes the water to enter the river system. This has important benefits for communities downstream that are vulnerable to flooding, as it means that water is being released more slowly.

The findings of the six-year study, implemented by Moors for the Future Partnership, confirm the vital part sphagnum moss could play in a widespread and effective reduction in flood risk for vulnerable communities downstream. Planting sphagnum reduces both the likelihood and severity of flooding. Natural Flood Management (NFM) uses natural processes to reduce the risk of floods and droughts, making catchment areas more resilient to the impacts of climate change and extreme storm events.

Sphagnum moss is key to the ecology of our invaluable wetland areas of upland blanket bog. As well as performing the crucial role of accumulating over time to create new layers of peat – an essential carbon store – sphagnum is able to absorb up to 20 times its own weight in water. A healthy sphagnum covering will protect and maintain the wetness of the peat underneath and, as these findings have shown, hold peak water flow on the hills, rather than allow it to overwhelm river systems below.

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Posted On: 30/09/2022

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