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One last push and Langlands Moss will be returned to its full natural glory according to South Lanarkshire’s Countryside Ranger Service.

The final significant conifer plantation at the East Kilbride Local Nature Reserve is being removed as the site is returned to its natural state to help preserve and protect rare native species and habitats for future generations.

Langlands Moss has been at the centre of a peatland restoration project, which has been funded by Peatland ACTION since 2017, with the goal of preserving the existing natural peatland habitat and restoring areas that have fallen prey to human interventions.

South Lanarkshire Chair of Community and Enterprise Resources Councillor John Anderson said: “Although several generations have grown up with the conifer woodland at Langlands Moss it was not a natural feature but rather the result of programmed plantation in the 1960s.

“Over the last 60 years the conifer trees have worked against the ecological well-being of the area, gradually drying it out and destroying the rare peatland habitat.

“Working with the local community through Friends of Langlands Moss, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Central Scotland Green Network Trust, South Lanarkshire Council’s Countryside and Greenspace team have been successfully restoring the native raised bog and this final phase of conifer removal is a welcome landmark.”

In addition to removing the forestry plantation the project will involve damming the drainage ditches on the Moss to hold water and re-wet the bog and help sphagnum moss and other bog plant species to flourish.

Lowland raised bogs are among one of our most important habitats nationally and internationally.  Not only do they provide a unique home for a variety of plants, animals and insects but a properly functioning bog is a significant store of carbon; helping to reduce the impacts of climate change.  Unfortunately, lowland raised bogs are today among our most threatened habitats.

Andrew McBride from Peatland ACTION said: “Lowland raised bogs in good condition – such as the eastern section of Langlands Moss – are a rare and threatened habitat, not only in Scotland but across the world.

“Peatlands are important carbon stores in the fight against climate change. The peat at the moss is an impressive nine metres at its deepest; the deeper the peat, the more carbon is stored. Removing the trees from the site, followed by ditch blocking, helps to ensure this carbon stays in the ground, rather than being released into the atmosphere.”

It has been almost thirty years since the first conifer plantation was removed in the early 1990s, that work along with improved access saw Langlands Moss declared a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

In more recent times the last decade has seen a huge effort by South Lanarkshire Council and Friends of Langlands Moss (FOLM) to restore the natural hydrology of the bog.  Many volunteer hours have been spent replacing old and broken dams along the forestry drainage ditches, monitoring the wildlife and carrying out events.  FOLM have also strived to secure funding in improving access and signage to the reserve, whilst raising awareness of the reserve and the plight of raised bogs in the UK

Peatland ACTION has funded the Bog Squad, comprised of local community groups and volunteers and led by the Butterfly Conservation Trust’s Peatland Restoration Project Officer, the group undertook restoration activities that could be completed by hand.

Plans are now underway to extend the LNR designation to include the north of the site to protect it from degradation and development.

Work to fell and remove the over-mature conifer trees is due to start week beginning 20th January and work on the site will continue until late May.  Forestry work involves using large machinery so for the safety of the public and workers Langlands Moss will be closed to the public until the contractors have completed all felling operations. 

People are asked to please heed warning signs and to not use paths that have been closed to allow tree felling work to take place even if machinery is not operating in the area.  Regular visitors to the site are encouraged to check FoLM and SLC Facebook sites for updates.

Once the conifer plantation has been removed work will begin on damming the drainage ditches to raise the water table on the site.  Non-native conifer trees will also be removed in the woodlands around the edge of the site to improve the health of the native deciduous woodland and make them more attractive to wildlife. 

Although the felling area may at first look unsightly, native trees and plants will quickly spring up once the area is no longer dark and shaded by the dense conifer trees.  Partners also intend to continue fundraising to carry out access improvements across the whole site.

Linda McConaghie from Central Scotland Green Network Trust said: “CSGNT is delighted to be working with SLC and FoLM to restore Langlands Moss to its former glory.  Not only will the work restore and protect a rare habitat but it will also help reduce the impacts of climate change as a peatbog acts as a sponge, absorbing and locking in carbon dioxide and water to help reduce flooding."

The sale of timber from the felled conifer plantation will be used to fund the tree removal and restoration work on the site and is expected to generate around £180,000.