Out on Islay's peat bogs this summer, we’ve been monitoring the condition of future peatland restoration sites. 

We saw a few marsh fritillary webs nestled among the grasses and wildflowers. We had a close encounter with a herd of red deer. And, importantly, we got a really good feel for the health of the bogs where new restoration work will begin this winter.  

Marsh fritillary web, by Angharad Ward/ACT

Why do we do habitat surveys? 

The presence or absence of certain species can tell us a lot about the health of the bog. For example, if it's too dry or if animals, like the deer we saw, have been grazing too heavily. 

This summer’s surveys recorded the condition of habitat areas of the peatland before work begins on it. We will go back to the same locations after we've completed restoration work to survey again. Doing this will allow us to compare the results and see how restoration impacts the bog. 

How do we do a habitat survey?

We lay out a 2m by 2m square, on random areas of the bog, to measure things like

  • the amount of heather and mosses
  • the height of vegetation
  • and signs of grazing. 

We have an excellent local surveying team, whose hard work began in spring as they surveyed bird activity on peatland sites. They then turned their skills and local knowledge to habitat surveying. 


Photo by Angharad Ward/ACT

What’s next?

As our summer season of surveying the condition of new peatland restoration sites on Islay wraps up, a new season of restoration work begins. We'll be working with landowners and liaising with contractors to do things like blocking ditches to encourage the build-up of water and sphagnum moss. 

Support to monitor peatland habitats

Our peatland initiative is funded by NatureScot’s Peatland ACTION and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funding allows us to go the extra mile in supporting smaller-scale landholdings through the restoration process. This funding also supports us to do these habitat surveys, so that we can monitor the impact of restoration works on the condition of the peatland and how birds and insects use the bogs. With these surveys, we can look beyond the change in hydrology associated with restoration.

The peatland restoration process

Working as part of NatureScot's Peatland ACTION project, we facilitate Scottish Government-funded peatland restoration on the islands of Islay, Jura and Colonsay. To do this, we:

  • work with land managers through the Peatland ACTION application process,
  • help to design restoration plans, 
  • liaise with contractors on the ground as they block ditches and reprofile old peat banks to restore the habitat.

Peatland ACTION can provide up to 100% of the upfront costs of restoration or can be used in conjunction with private finance.


You can read more about our work:

All photos by Angharad Ward/ACT