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Wind-farm damage to peatlands

Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands are the best ecosystem in the world for storing carbon and methane, twice as good as all the forests in Britain, France and Germany combined.

It has been discovered recently, through research carried out at Durham University by Dr Fred Worrall and Dr Robert Baxter and broadcast on Open Country (Radio 4), that the British peatlands – the majority of which are in the North of Scotland – store the equivalent of all Britain’s CO2 emissions for the last 21 years. This is a staggering discovery!

It follows, therefore, that if our peatlands are damaged they release CO2. If they are property managed they will continue to absorb and mitigate not only our output of CO2 but also methane (which is 10 times worse than CO2).

Our peatlands must be saved, something which is not generally understood, least of all by many of our politicians and councillors, who continue to encourage and approve big commercial wind farms on our peatlands. Peat dries out at turbine foundations and tracks and also when ditches are dug, which de-water the peat bogs, turning them into dry heath.

Forests planted in the peatlands are being felled to make way for wind farms. When trees are felled, tree roots have caused cracking as well as dehydration, which can result in peat slide on slopes, especially where the peat is deep, scarring the landscape. This happened at Derrybrien in Galway, Ireland, with whole stands of trees sliding downhill like trams.

Forests are also being felled by RSPB to restore peat bogs but this will be a very slow process, bearing in mind the many thousands of years the peat took to form in the first place. However, the construction of a wind farm seriously damages the peat.

Rivers and watercourses can be badly affected by silt from construction sites, unless strictly controlled. This can destroy fish and ruin habitats of birds and mammals. There appears to be a frightening lack of control during the construction stage of wind farms.

Lyndall Leet, 8 Burnside, Scrabster

John O’Groat Journal

21 September 2007