Internet of things digital solutions are being used in a pioneering project to protect carbon-heavy peatland in Scotland.
Internet of things remotely monitored sensors are being trialled to monitor the health of peatland in Scotland’s Western Isles to prevent release of damaging greenhouse gas emissions.
Peatland covers around 20% of Scotland and is vitally important to the environment as it stores 1.7bn tons of carbon, the equivalent of around 140 years of Scotland’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is estimated that 80% of this peatland is damaged, which allows it to dry out. If this continues it will release a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, making climate change worse.
Average costs to the Fire and Rescue Service of vehicle response to all vegetation fires in the UK was up to £55 million per annum, which when adjusted for inflation would equate to.£77m in 2022, according to a Fire and Rescue Statistics report.
Suppression costs of moorland fires are high due to problems of access and water supply—up to £1 million for a large peat moorland fire. In addition, ecological restoration of peatland burn scars in the Peak District National Park which were the result of a wildfire in Northwest England has cost over £12 million. The carbon cost of burnt peatland releasing stored carbon to the atmosphere can also be significant, and should be avoided.
Across Europe, peatland ecosystems store five times more CO2 than forests. This is a particular concern in Finland (home to almost a third of Europe’s peatlands) and Sweden (where one quarter are located), with the remainder in the UK, Poland, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, The Netherlands and France. Ensuring these peatlands are preserved is of paramount importance.
The year-long trial, which covers a peatland area surrounding Loch Orasaigh in the Western Isles, is being carried out by UK digital connectivity specialist, FarrPoint in collaboration with NatureScot Peatland ACTION, the Carloway Estate Trust and Scottish Water with funding from the Scottish Government.
This work aligns with the Scottish Government’s £250m, 10-year peatland restoration initiative, to significantly reduce carbon emissions and support biodiversity as part of its climate change plan. Peatland ACTION funded restoration work around Loch Orasaigh has been phased over several years and the internet of things sensors are currently gathering a baseline dataset prior to restoration of this area. Post restoration monitoring is also planned using the same technology.
Monitoring peatland to measure its water content has traditionally been a manual task, with regular travel to monitoring stations in often remote locations, often on foot. FarrPoint’s Internet of things solution to monitor peatland could become a game changer in helping to save peatlands in the UK and beyond, by providing real-time information to inform how restoration work impacts the health of the peatland.
“Digital technologies will become central to our ability to limit the damage of climate change and hit our net-zero targets,” said Dr Andrew Muir ceo of FarrPoint. “This summer’s drought has shown how vulnerable the UK is to extreme heat and this trial will provide valuable and timely data which will help inform future peatland restoration activities. Connecting remote and rural areas with internet of things digital technologies can be extremely challenging, and whilst benefits have been shown for larger cities, this trial will create key learnings that can be applied to other remote regions of Scotland and Europe.”
Mairi McAllan, UK Environment Minister said: “Peatland restoration represents a cornerstone of our action to tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Restoring Scotland’s iconic peatlands can help us sequester and store carbon from the atmosphere, support biodiversity and provide good, green jobs – often in rural communities.
“This innovative project, which has been awarded £60k from Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate, highlights how new and digital technologies will be crucial in helping us deliver our net zero ambitions.”