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Blanket mire is a rare resource representing less than 3% (120 000 km2) of global peatlands (Tallis 1997). The largest concentration of blanket mire occurs in the uplands of the UK and Ireland (approximately 20% of global blanket mire (Tallis 1998)). The global rarity of blanket mire and concerns over its current condition in the UK (see Box 9.1) have led to it being included in protective legislation (European Commission 1992) and in national conservation strategies (JNCC and DEFRA 2012).
Blanket mire condition in the UK has been impacted by multiple pressures, including drainage, afforestation, atmospheric pollution and burning. The most intensely impacted areas are severely eroded, with large areas of bare peat and erosion gully networks (Evans and Warburton 2007), with artificial drainage additionally affecting over 1.5 million hectares of blanket mire (Parry et al. 2014). Although the extent of erosion of blanket mire in the UK and Ireland is not widely replicated elsewhere in the world, analogous peat erosion has been reported from North and South America, Asia and Australia (Evans and Warburton 2007). For example, increasing levels of erosion of sloping mires in Tibet (Joosten and Schumann 2007; Chapter 13) demonstrate that the requirement to manage upland peat is not just a UK concern. The focus of this chapter is therefore on the ecosystem service benefits of blanket mire restoration in the uplands of the UK and Ireland, as an exemplar for peatland restoration which may become more widely applicable.
The chapter is in three sections. The first summarises the main ecosystem services of blanket mire; the second describes the main drivers for the condition of blanket mire in the UK; and the third outlines the impact that blanket mire restoration has on ecosystem services. Readers are also directed to the review by Parry et al. (2014), which provides further details on blanket mire degradation, the restoration techniques employed in the UK and the response of ecosystem service features to restoration practices.
Ecosystem services from blanket mire systems
Blanket mires contribute a range of ecosystem services, briefly summarised below following the proposed Common International Standard for Ecosystem Services (Haines-Young and Potschin 2013; see Table 1.1 in Chapter 1).