A PROJECT to restore "globally rare" Snowdonia mountain peatland is underway.

Large scale erosion is taking place on the 'blanket bogs' slopes of Llwytmor and Foel-Grach in the Carneddau region.

According to the Snowdonia National Park Authority peatlands cover three percent of the world’s surface but contain more than twice the carbon stored in all the forests across the world.

The authority says that erosion risks the release of large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and water courses.

Now, due to funding, the Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme (SMS) project, in collaboration with the National Trust, Aber and Llanfairfechan Graziers Society, are working to repair the peatland landscape.

Work will see re-vegetation of vulnerable areas, slow the flow of water and restore the peatland.

It should be finished by mid-March, in time for sheep to return to summer pastures and the arrival of breeding upland birds.

The Snowdonia National Park holds around 30% of Wales’ peatlands, with over 25,000 hectares of peat, and an estimated 17 million tonnes of carbon.

The majority of these habitats are described as 'globally rare peatland blanket bogs’ - literally upland peatland areas which ‘blanket’ the hillsides.

Some 3500 hectares of them are found between the Carneddau peaks.

Historically, the peatlands were heavily grazed and along with natural mountain drainage also influenced erosion.

Large peat ‘haggs’ or bare, cliff-like formations that expose the underlying soil have formed, draining the peat.

The authority says it has triggered a "huge release of greenhouse gases."

Nowadays, the Carneddau mountain areas are grazed at lower levels and there is protection in place for delicate mountain habitats and the semi-feral population of Carneddau ponies.

Peatlands also contain preserved pollen and microfossils which can inform about past climates and vegetation, and how they have shaped the landscape.

Under the Welsh Peatland Sustainable Management Scheme and future work by the Carneddau Landscape Partnership peatlands will be restored to significantly reduce greenhouse gas losses and safeguard evidence of the formation of the landscape.

Gareth Jones, Chair of the Aber and Llanfairfechan Graziers Society stated:

“As a Graziers Society we are very pleased to support the peatland restoration work that is about to commence on Llwytmor.

"Not only because of the environmental benefits of restoring peatland as a carbon store, but also to safeguard the landscape which is an important habitat for biodiversity, and not forgetting the wild Carneddau ponies that inhabit there.”

Rachel Harvey, the north Wales Project Officer for Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme explained:

“Peatlands are meant to be really wet places: waterlogged soils have no oxygen to break down plant material, and this is how our peatlands have locked away so much carbon over the millennia.

"After historical peatland drainage and damage, this massive store of carbon is now being broken down and released in huge quantities as greenhouse gases. By restoring our peatlands, we’re working to re-wet them and putting a cap on this huge carbon loss.”

National Trust General Manager for Snowdonia and Llŷn, Trystan Edwards said:

“As a conservation charity, we’re restoring natural habitats in order to create healthy, resilient landscapes, and in particular focus on clean, natural watercourses.

"We’ve been able to share knowledge from similar restorative works on Y Migneint in the Upper Conwy catchment. Through the SMS project we’re working collaboratively to carry out this much needed restoration on the Carneddau.”