How Severn Trent is helping peatland thrive to boost flood defences and reduce carbon emissions

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They are nature’s ‘magic sponges’ which absorb and purify water to help peatland thrive – boosting flood defences and reducing carbon emissions. Severn Trent has been funding the introduction of sphagnum mosses to aid peatland restoration in Combs Moss moorland in the Peak District.

The company is planting some 145 hectares of the sponge-like mosses within the national park, which helps improve the quality of water reaching reservoirs and slows down flows.

The moss also helps with the restoration of the peatland which plays a vital role in helping the environment by trapping carbon dioxide.

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The project has been running in conjunction with partners Moors for the Future Partnership, Nestlé Waters UK, the Environment Agency, and the Harris & Sheldon Group.

Sphagnum mossesSphagnum mosses
Sphagnum mosses

Graham Osborn, Principal Ecologist at Severn Trent, outlined the scheme on World Environment Day. He said: “It’s been a really successful joint project that has many benefits for the environment.

“Sphagnum mosses are the building blocks for peatland restoration. They can hold up to 20 times their own weight in water, so are like big sponges.

“They hold onto the water for a long time which creates a perfect wet environment to help all the different fauna and flora up there.

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“There are also water benefits as the mosses slow down the water flow and filters it by using up nutrients.”

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Graham, who leads an award-winning biodiversity team at Severn Trent, who have carried out other projects in the National Park with Moors for the Future Partnership. He added: “This is a beautiful upland environment that has a remoteness that you only get in that area.

“Peatland is very important to the environment but we have lost some of it in the past through artificial drainage after demands from other sectors, like agriculture, to try and plant more crops or grass for grazing.

“Yet Peatland can hold carbon in for thousands of years and the sphagnum mosses help bring in more carbon through photosynthesis as they grow.”

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Severn Trent is the only water company with the highest 4-star EPA rating (Environmental Performance Assessment), awarded for the fourth consecutive year last summer.

The Combs Moss scheme is one of many environmental projects the water company is involved with as part of their Great Big Nature Boost, launched in 2020.

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The company is also delivering on its pledge to plant 1.3m trees by 2027 and supporting a commitment to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games by creating 2,022 acres of new woodlands, as well as creating more than 70 Tiny Forests.

Schoolkids recently helped plant a new 42-acre site near Bromsgrove, in partnership with the National Trust, which will eventually grow to become a stunning forest for locals to enjoy for generations to come.

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Other Severn Trent nature projects have included helping reintroduce families of beavers to Willington Wetlands in Derbyshire and Idle Valley Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire for the first time in 800 years. That schemes run by Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trusts, has seen the cute mammals create dams to slow flow from waterways and onto wetlands, to help prevent flooding.

And the water company is also launching a new industry-leading scheme that will see employees increase their skills and qualifications to become environmental role models.

The Environmental Champions Programme will see Severn Trent upskill staff across the region, including in the East and West Midlands.