Conservation Evidence strives to be as useful to conservationists as possible. Please take our survey to help the team improve our resource.

Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Directly plant peatland mosses Peatland Conservation

Key messages

Read our guidance on Key messages before continuing

  • Seven studies evaluated the effects on peatland vegetation of planting mosses. Six studies were in bogs and one was in a fen.
  • Survival (1 study): One study in Lithuania reported that of 50 Sphagnum-dominated sods planted into a rewetted bog, 47 survived for one year.
  • Growth (2 studies): Two before-and-after studies in a fen in the Netherlands and bog pools in the UK reported that mosses grew after planting.
  • Moss cover (5 studies): Five before-and-after studies in a fen in the Netherlands and bogs in Germany, Ireland, Estonia and Australia reported that after planting mosses, the area covered by moss increased in at least some cases. The study in the Netherlands reported spread of planted moss beyond the introduction site. The study in Australia was also controlled and reported that planted plots developed greater Sphagnum moss cover than unplanted plots.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

1 

A before-and-after study in 1989–1992 in a fen in the Netherlands (Kooijman et al. 1994) reported that transplanted shoots of scorpion moss Scorpidium scorpioides grew in length and spread to new parts of the fen. No statistical tests were carried out. Twenty months after transplant, “many” shoots had died but remaining shoots had grown 3 cm on average. New plants were found in 25 grid cells up to 1.2 m from original transplants. After three years, this had increased to plants in 80 grid cells up to 2 m from the transplants. In November 1989, five rings of live scorpion moss (3.5 cm diameter) were cut from an Irish fen and planted in the Dutch fen, where scorpion moss was absent. Five plants in each ring were marked 3 cm below the shoot tip. In July 1991, measurements were taken of shoot length (above the marks) and expansion of moss plants into grid of 10 x 10 cm squares around the transplants. Expansion measurements were repeated in December 1992.

2 

A before-and-after study in 1991 in a historically mined raised bog in England, UK (Money 1995) reported that planted Sphagnum moss grew within bog pools. Over the first 20 weeks after planting, feathery bog moss Sphagnum cuspidatum plants had grown by 10–15% per week. Recurved bog moss Sphagnum recurvum plants had grown by 6–13% per week. Growth of both species was affected by liming (see Section 14.1) and fertilization (see Section 14.2). In 1991, individual Sphagnum plants (cut to 5 cm length) were submerged (30 cm deep) in 4 m3 pools dug in the bog (number of plants and pools not reported). After 10 days, some pools were limed, fertilized or limed and fertilized. After 20 weeks, the length of all plants was measured.

3 

A replicated before-and-after study in 1991–1995 in a historically mined raised bog in Germany (Sliva et al. 1999) reported that transplanted sods of Sphagnum moss grew larger in one of five sites but did not grow (or shrunk) in the other four. No statistical tests were carried out. Sods of three Sphagnum species increased in diameter when planted at a site with sedge Carex sp. present (from 20 cm to 54–82 cm over four years). The species were Magellanic bog moss Sphagnum magellanicum, feathery bog moss Sphagnum cuspidatum and red bog moss Sphagnum capillifolium. All three species did not grow, or shrunk, when planted between Eriophorum cottongrass at three sites or into an unvegetated site (from 20 cm to 0–23 cm). Cover of living Sphagnum within the sods showed similar responses. In 1991, five sites in a historically mined but rewetted bog were planted with 20 sods (25 cm thick, 12 cm diameter) of each Sphagnum species. From 1992 to 1995, sod diameter and cover of living Sphagnum were recorded.

4 

A replicated before-and-after study in 1998–2001 in a bog in Ireland (Smolders et al. 2003) reported that transplanted sods of Sphagnum moss grew in bare or moss-covered peat. No statistical tests were carried out. Two years after transplantation to a soaked bare peat surface, sods of transplanted Sphagnum sods covered 1,350–1,400 cm2 (compared to 480–510 cm2 when planted). Similarly, two years after transplantation into established feathery bog moss Sphagnum cuspidatum, transplanted Sphagnum sods covered 1,290–1,710 cm2 (compared to 350–510 cm2 when planted). In 1998 or 1999, sods of Magellanic bog moss Sphagnum magellanicum and papillose bog moss Sphagnum papillosum were cut from existing bogs. Three sods of each species, approximately 500 cm2 and 10 cm deep, were transplanted to depressions: bare or covered with feathery bog moss. Sod surface areas were measured annually.

5 

A replicated, paired, before-and-after study in 2003–2006 in two raised bogs in Ireland and Estonia (Robroek et al. 2009) found that transplants of Sphagnum moss survived for three years at 5–125% of their original size. Three species were transplanted. For two species (red bog moss Sphagnum rubellum and rusty bog moss Sphagnum fuscum), larger 14 cm diameter transplants grew, or shrunk less (84–127% original size) than smaller 7 cm diameter transplants (25–113% original size). For the other species (feathery bog moss Sphagnum cuspidatum), shrinkage was not significantly affected by transplant size (large 18–56%; small 5–50% original size). In June 2003, 5–6 large (14 cm diameter) and 20–24 small (7 cm diameter) cores of single moss species, each 20 cm thick, were transplanted to bogs dominated by Magellan’s bog moss Sphagnum magellanicum. Transplants were arranged in sets of one large with four small. Fragment areas were measured from photographs taken in September 2006.

6 

A replicated, controlled, before-and-after study in 2003–2007 in seven burned bogs in Australia (Whinam et al. 2010) reported that plots planted with Sphagnum moss developed greater Sphagnum cover than unplanted plots, especially when shaded. These results were not tested for statistical significance. Immediately before intervention, Sphagnum cover was approximately 3%. After 40 months, plots planted with Sphagnum sods had developed 9–21% Sphagnum cover: 9% if mulched with straw, 11% if shaded with a vertical cloth and 21% if shaded with a horizontal cloth. In comparison, unplanted plots had developed 8–10% Sphagnum cover: 8% with no intervention and 10% if shaded with a horizontal cloth. In October 2003, 75 plots were established across bogs recently burned by wild fire. In one bog, fifteen 45 m2 plots were planted with sods of mixed Sphagnum species (30 cm thick, 400 cm2). All sods were fertilized. Five planted plots then received each cover treatment: straw mulch, vertical shade cloth or horizontal shade cloth. In the same bog, five additional plots were covered with shade cloth but not planted. The remaining 55 plots across all seven bogs received no intervention. In October 2003 and 2007, Sphagnum cover was estimated in 5–20 quadrats/plot or bog. Quadrats were 0.25 m2.

7 

A study in 2006–2012 in a historically mined raised bog in Lithuania (Jarašius et al. 2013) reported that 94% of planted Sphagnum-dominated sods survived for one year. The study also reported that Sphagnum had started to grow on adjacent bare peat, but this was not quantified. In September 2011, 50 sods cut from a donor bog were transplanted to a degraded but rewetted bog. Each sod was 40 x 40 cm in area and 5–7 cm thick. The donor bog was dominated by rusty bog moss Sphagnum fuscum, red bog moss Sphagnum capillifolium and Magellan’s bog moss Sphagnum magellanicum but the sods also contained vascular plants. The degraded bog had been rewetted by building dams and installing underground plastic membranes. Sod survival was recorded in 2012.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Taylor N.G., Grillas P. & Sutherland W.J. (2019) Peatland Conservation. Pages 375-438 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, N. Ockendon, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2019. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.