Friends group does its bit and moor to reduce flooding risk

Volunteer-led group Friends of Crompton Moor has been key to a pioneering initiative to help protect Manchester from flooding.

Working alongside Moors for the Future; Manchester City of Trees and Oldham Council, the wildlife group is helping restore and conserve the important recreational and natural moorland of Crompton Moor.

This work is essential to create peat bog habitats across selected sections of the moor above Oldham to help slow rainwater flow.

The community below is at high risk of flooding from the River Beal and its tributaries.

Crompton Moor would have once boasted thriving blanket bogs.

But a combination of industrial pollution, wildfires and heavy grazing has caused serious damage, leaving most of the area covered in Molinia caerulea-otherwise known as purple moor grass.

Molinia, which has increased dramatically over recent times, is giving increasing concerns.

The grass produces monotonous species, poor landscapes which suppress other moorland species such as heather and bilberry.

With the moors in a bad state; with little diverse plant life and vegetation; bare peat washes into water sources like reservoirs and rivers.This needs to be extracted before it flows through residents’ and businesses’ taps – at the expense of water companies, and ultimately the consumers.

Manchester City of Trees has provided the funding for sphagnum moss to restore and conserve the important recreational and natural moorland of Crompton Moor.

The benefits of this include: increased water retention to sustain the special plant life and peat bogs, a healthy, bio-diverse and resilient eco-system that benefits wildlife, reduced peat erosion, slower run-off into rivers after downpours, potentially reducing flood risks, more carbon retention, stored in the peat, which helps mitigate climate change.

Over the last 18 months 11,250 individual plugs of sphagnum moss have been planted.

Two control plots have been established by creating 30 quadrats in each.

Twelve plugs of sphagnum have been planted in each of the 60 quadrats with more plugs planted randomly outside the quadrats.

This work is set to continue with a team of volunteers, working under the tuition of the Moors for the Future Partnership, planting more sphagnum plugs over the next six months.

Work started in October 2019 to create another 30 quadrats in a separate control area, with more sphagnum to be planted in February 2020.

Long-term monitoring is needed to follow up the development of the established plots, and all our vegetation monitoring relies on the hard work and dedication of a large number of volunteers and staff from Moors for the Future.

Counting the percentage cover of every single species in all 90 quadrats is quite a feat.

But it is providing the Friends group with a valuable understanding of how the moors are recovering following our restoration work.

It will also provide a detailed account of how the moors may change in response to a changing climate.

The aim is to create healthy bogs which are greatly beneficial to both people and wildlife.

This will help to tackle climate change by locking in harmful carbon, improving water quality and helping threatened moorland birds including curlews, golden plovers and dunlins.

The group would love to hear from people who are equally passionate about the moors and who would be interested in working as a volunteer on this project. You will learn new skills, keep fit and meet some like-minded people.

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