7.1 Muirburn on Peatland

See Additional Information No. 7 – Muirburn on Peatland

Key Issues:

  • Peatland needs sympathetic management, or possibly no management at all, if it is in a near-natural condition. These areas are not wasteland and have a valuable role to play in supporting a range of land uses and the provision of natural services.
  • Deep peat, which has a high proportion of heather cover (>50%), is considered to be degraded.
    • There are benefits for all interests from raising the water table, increasing the cover of sphagnum moss, and reducing the heather dominance.
    • For example: peatland in this state will have a larger population of insects and it will not require management as often.
  • On peatland, it is of particular importance there is a clear objective identified for the muirburn activity before any work takes place.
  • Maintaining and restoring bog habitat can provide important habitat for grouse and other birds. Burning or cutting is unlikely to add any additional value and there is a significant risk of causing damage to the vegetation and to the peat.
  • On peatland, with a near-natural water table, the rate of heather growth will be slower than on dry heath and therefore the period between any vegetation management work should be much longer. The period could be 30 years, or more.


  • Burning should be avoided on blanket bog and raised bog on deep peat (>50cm) even where there is a high proportion of heather cover, unless this has been shown to be necessary as part of peatland restoration management. Specialist advice should be obtained.
  • If it is decided that some burning should take place, to minimise the impact on mosses, burning should only take place with the wind at a time when the mosses are moist.
  • Peatland areas should never be burnt in very dry conditions.


  • On peatland, lightweight cutting equipment mounted on low ground pressure vehicles should be used to minimise the amount of compaction.
  • Care needs to be taken to avoid scalping of hummocks and damage when wheels follow undulations in the ground or when wheels drop into holes.