Plantlife in Space

Alistair Whyte

Alistair Whyte

Head of Plantlife Scotland

3rd July 2018

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Munsary Peatlands

At over 3,500 hectares, Plantlife’s Munsary Peatlands nature reserve is certainly big, but did you know it is big enough to be seen from space?

If you have a satellite, that is. In an innovative partnership between the University of Nottingham, the Environmental Research Institute and University of Glasgow, with support from Plantlife and RSPB, cutting edge research is being carried out which uses satellite technology to assess the health of peatlands. The idea is to use a peatland which is in very good condition (Munsary!) and compare it with a site where the peat is subsiding. The satellite data (generated by Sentinel 1, satellite which is part of the European Space Agency’s Copernicus programme) will be compared with accurate measurements on the ground, enabling the accuracy of the data gathered from space to be assessed. This will help develop techniques to monitor and assess the health of peatlands across wider areas and even countries.

So, if you visit Munsary Peatlands this summer, you will be visiting a cutting edge research site! Looking down at the ground instead of up at the sky, you will be rewarded with a host of wonderful plants, such as bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) in a pond next to the access track, the nodding white heads of hares tail cotton grass (Eriophorum vaginatum), and the purple flowers and bright green leaves of the insectivorious butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris).

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