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Dartmoor Mires Project

Dartmoor Mires Project

The Dartmoor Mires Project was established to investigate the feasibility and effects of restoration of Dartmoor's blanket bog in order to conserve and enhance this crucial habitat

  • for upland wildlife
  • to improve water supply and
  • to increase the potential of blanket bog to store carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change

Blanket bog forms on plateaux and gentle slopes of moorland above 400m where water run-off would have been slow in the past, allowing bog mosses and other specialised plants to build into layers of peat. Such areas support unique plant communities and also nesting habitat for wading birds. A healthy blanket bog is able to store a large volume of water within the saturated peat, releasing it slowly into rivers and streams. In addition, the accumulation of peat in bog areas is a very important carbon store: it has been estimated that 10 megatonnes of carbon could be stored in the soils of Dartmoor, equivalent to an entire year of carbon dioxide (CO2) output from industry in the UK.

However, when blanket bog is damaged, water loss speeds up and erosion begins, drying out the peat and causing losses to both carbon and biodiversity. This loss of carbon into the water supply can impact on water quality; requiring expensive treatment which ultimately impacts on customers’ water bills. Further to this, the release of CO2 into the atmosphere from degraded blanket bog could be turning them from an environment of carbon sequestration (a carbon sink) into environments of carbon release, adding to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Dartmoor contains around 8,500 hectares of blanket bog - a habitat which is recognised as a priority habitat under the European Commission Habitats Directive which is the primary reason for the notification of the Dartmoor Special Area for Conservation and the moorland Site of Special Scientific Interest. However, currently this internationally important habitat is threatened by erosion as a result of past management and environmental conditions.

The Dartmoor Mires Project was part of a joint initiative on Dartmoor and Exmoor (external website, opens new window) called Mires on the Moors, which ran from 2010 for 5 years, with significant financial support from South West Water under its Upsteam Thinking Initiative.(external website, opens new window). The Dartmoor Mires Project was a pilot scheme to explore the feasibility of restoration of degraded blanket bog on Dartmoor, and was co-ordinated by Dartmoor National Park Authority and steered by a partnership of the Environment Agency,Duchy of CornwallNatural EnglandSouth West Waterand theDartmoor Commoners’ Council. (external websites, opens new browser windows). It benefitted from a wider partnership including the MOD, Forest of Dartmoor Commoners Association, RSPBEnglish Heritage (external websites, opens new browser windows) and the Dartmoor Access Forum which helped to ensure that a wide range of interests were considered as the project developed.

Limited programmes of practical restoration took place every summer/autumn. Restoration works aimed to protect remaining intact blanket bog by reducing active erosion and to promote the regeneration of moorland bog vegetation, see the restoration page for a map, and more details). If successful, these will bring various benefits including:

  • restoration of a globally important habitat and its associated species such as the dunlin
  • improved water quality which benefits all river life including species such as the salmon

The project investigated whether restoration of degraded bog alters the rate of run off into streams and rivers after rainfall. Which was part of a wider research and monitoring programme aimed at understanding how experimental restoration techniques will affect Dartmoor’s blanket bog. The knowledge gained from this programme has provided an evidence base for considering the potential for future work. 

Protecting the blanket bog vegetation on Dartmoor will also protect the underlying peat, a huge carbon store built up in layers beneath the surface bog. This will both prevent further losses of carbon and enhance the potential of the bog to lock up additional stores of carbon. It will also help protect any archaeological remains within the peat.

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In developing project work, a range of interests are considered to ensure they are not compromised, and to recognise opportunities for benefits to related interests where they arise.

Historic environment:The Dartmoor Mires Project has encouraged further study and investigation into Dartmoor’s remarkable cultural heritage, with recent palaeoecological and archaeological surveys funded by Natural England, and facilitated by the Trustees of the Forest of Dartmoor Environmentally Sensitive Area Scheme, alongside those funded by South West Water. This has provided a new insight into Dartmoor. More information on these can be found on our historic environment page


Walkers on Winney's DownAccess and recreation:groups are informed and consulted on project work. Aside from two small areas containing monitoring equipment at Flat Tor Pan, (visit the research and monitoring page

for more details) neither people nor animals are excluded from project sites, sites remain inherently wet and access is unaffected. Walkers on Dartmoor are encouraged to visit and enjoy Dartmoor’s blanket bogs which are found in remote and isolated areas, and have their own striking visual appeal, as well as immense interest for naturalists. If you plan to visit our sites, please be aware that some are within the MOD ranges and as such will be subject to access restrictions on firing days. Please visit the MOD page(external website, opens new window) for details of firing days.

Grazing and commoners:Commoners are represented at all levels of project management and restoration proposals are developed with assistance from the Forest of Dartmoor commoners, whose stock graze the sites, to ensure the grazing of the commons is taken into account. This means that commoners’ knowledge and expertise is utilised for the benefit of the project.

Biodiversity:Natural England (NE) is a project partner and oversees issues to do with regulation and designations as necessary. In addition, NE, Environment Agency and National Park Authority ecologists provide advice, and specialist input is provided by RSPB where appropriate.

Military Activity:
Most of Dartmoor’s highest quality blanket bogs lie within Dartmoor Military Training Areas. The MOD provides advice, and facilitates project activities.

Please use the following links to view further information on the Dartmoor Mires Project, including the Dartmoor Mires Project Delivery Plan and our frequently asked questions.

Page last updated: 01 Aug 2016
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