MoorLIFE 2020: Estimating Carbon Released from Wildfire

  • Damage caused by wildfire to the Roaches
    Damage caused by wildfire to the Roaches
  • Damage caused by wildfire to the Roaches
    Damage caused by wildfire to the Roaches
Case Study Information
The MoorLIFE 2020 project aims to restore and protect areas of Blanket Bog within the SPM SAC, through undertaking concrete conservation activities, environmental monitoring and communication / education events. This case study uses field data to estimate the amount of carbon released from the peat as a result of the 2018 wildfire. This is possible because Moors for the Future Partnership has an existing monitoring site on the area which was damaged by the wildfire, allowing for before and after data to be collected.
Edale, Moorland Centre, Fieldhead, Hope Valley
Landscape context: 

The MoorLIFE 2020 project covers areas of Blanket Bog within the South Pennine Moors (SPM) Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which stretches from Leek in the South to Skipton in the North. This area contains one of the most significant areas of Blanket Bog in Europe. This study focuses on the Roaches nature reserve. The site is situated at the southern end of the SPM SAC within the Peak District National Park (PDNP), 4 miles North of Leek and 8 miles North West of Macclesfield. The sites covers 395 hectares of which 61 hectares of Blanket Bog was damaged in a 2018 wildfire.  

Partners, organisations and stakeholders involved: 

Staffordshire Wildfire Trust 

Aims of the project/initiative: 

The research aims to estimate the amount of carbon released as a result of the wildfire in 2018. This fits into the wider MoorLife 2020 objectives of monitoring threats to Blanket Bogs, by quantifying the impact a wildfire can have on carbon emissions. Additionally, it allows us to compare these emissions to those generated through MoorLIFE 2020 activities, setting our work in the wider context of carbon emissions. 

Progress so far: 

From this single wildfire 3,115 tonnes of carbon was released into the atmosphere as smoke and fumes. A further 129 tonnes was redeposited back into the peat as pyrogenic material such as Black Char.

Converting the carbon released to the atmosphere into carbon dioxide identifies that 11,430 tonnes was emitted. Comparing this to the MoorLIFE 2020 project, it is possible to determine that approximately 68 times more carbon dioxide was released from this one wildfire than the whole of MoorLIFE 2020 emitted in year 3 (166 tonnes of carbon). This is the equivalent of running 1,426 homes for 1 year.

This highlights the importance of reducing the impact that wildfire has on the blanket bog, through concrete conservation activities such as re wetting and through educational work.

A full report detailing the methodology used and the results from this research can be found here

Challenges and lessons learned: 

This research represents a unique opportunity, as studies using field based measurements to study wildfire are limited due to their unpredictability. These types of studies are rare because before and after peat depth data is required to quantify the amount of peat lost as a result of the wildfire. Moors for the Future Partnership is also undertaking a similar study on another site at Marsden. Which has allowed us to develop the methodology further to include the vegetation component of the ecosystem.  

Further information
Contact name 

Paul Titterton

Role in project: 
Research and Monitoring Officer
Location map: