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Assessing changes in peatland condition: new report published

News Item 2021

Our new report – 'Copernicus User Uptake: Assessing changes in peatland condition using a time-series of Sentinel-2 imagery' – showcases discusses how Earth observation imagery can be used to monitor how threatened peatland habitats are changing over time, and the effectiveness of restoration interventions.

Peatland ecosystems play a vital role in carbon sequestration, water quality and flow regulation, and in supporting rare and threatened species. These vital habitats have rapidly become a key focus in UK policy, and peatland restoration is recognised as a valuable nature-based solution for meeting net-zero emissions targets. Mapping peatland areas in poor condition, using bare unvegetated peat as an indicator, is a crucial step in targeting restoration interventions and in monitoring whether condition has improved over time.

Building on methodology trialled in a pilot study (see JNCC Report No. 667), we have partnered with Forest Research, Natural England and Welsh Government to explore how we can monitor peatland condition over time. The project focussed on four sites across the UK and examined changes in the amount of bare peat using a time-series of Sentinel-2 imagery and how this assessment can inform practical peatland management.

Maps of bare peat were created at a fine scale using very-high resolution (VHR) aerial imagery, and then scaled to cover a wider region using a time series of Sentinel 2 optical imagery from 2015 and 2020, with the results incorporated into a user-friendly R Shiny application. This project has highlighted the great potential of these maps in targeting ground monitoring and interventions, evaluating restoration schemes, and assessing the effectiveness of different restoration methods. Applying this type of approach provides a cost-effective means of monitoring peatland condition on a wide scale and has the potential to facilitate targeted restoration efforts to support peatland recovery, carbon capture, and net-zero emissions goals across the UK.

This is part of a suite of projects under the Caroline Hershel Framework Partnership Agreement on Copernicus User Uptake, which aims to showcase the use of Sentinel data in the environmental sector.

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