The long-term health of natural peatland across Europe is to be monitored with a trial now under way in South Lochs.
Smart technology company FarrPoint has installed a network of remotely monitored sensors covering a peatland area surrounding Loch Orasaigh, in what is believed to be one of the first projects of its kind in Europe.
The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) sensors will gather real-time data on moisture levels in the peat over a year, without researchers needing to cross the moors to take readings.
And the presence of the sensors in Lewis could have wider impacts for island communities, with what the company describes as ‘stackable’ benefits based on remote sensor coverage.
The project is a collaboration between FarrPoint, NatureScot’s peatland action project, Carloway Estate Trust and Scottish Water, with funding from the Scottish Government.
Peatland covers around 20% of Scotland, storing 1.7bn tons of carbon, the equivalent of around 140 years of Scotland’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Across Europe, these ecosystems store five times more CO2 than forests.
Finland is home to almost a third of Europe’s peatlands and a quarter are located in Sweden. The remainder are in the UK, Poland, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, The Netherlands and France.
Dr Andrew Muir, chief executive of FarrPoint, said: “Scotland’s peatlands are one of our key natural resources in the fight against rising carbon emissions and we must make efforts to protect them.
“When in good condition, our peatlands offer multiple benefits to the environment and our communities. With 80% of Scotland’s peatlands damaged, projects such as this can help us fight climate change and support biodiversity.
“Digital technologies will become central to our ability to limit the damage of climate change and hit our net-zero targets.
“This summer’s drought has shown how vulnerable the UK is to extreme heat and this trial will provide valuable and timely data which will help inform future peatland restoration activities.
“Connecting remote and rural areas with digital technologies can be extremely challenging, and whilst benefits have been shown for larger cities, this trial will create key learnings that can be applied to other remote regions of Scotland and Europe.”
As part of the same project, FarrPoint is also exploring the broader use of IoT solutions to benefit the local community in the Western Isles.
Working with the Scottish Government, it has already consulted local residents to find how social and economic issues could be solved using IoT technology.
One idea is to deploy remote sensors in Pairc to monitor humidity and temperature levels for its archive of paper-based records and local artefacts.
Many of these items need to be conserved in a stable environment, with humidity variation proving a key challenge due to the island climate.
Adding multiple uses over the same infrastructure is seen as essential, particularly in more remote areas, to improve the investment case.
The picture shows researchers installing the remote sensors in South Lochs (FarrPoint).