Bright Edge Deep: peatlands in history, cultural heritage, and climate - a round table discussion

Bright Edge Deep: peatlands in history, cultural heritage, and climate - a round table discussion

Glasgow Archaeology Festival

Wednesday 11 August 2021, 18:00-20:00 (online, Zoom)

Bright Edge Deep: peatlands in history, cultural heritage, and climate - a round table discussion

As part of COP26 related activities, the Bright Edge Deep Team are bringing together artistic, historical, cultural and scientific representations of peatlands as moderators of climate change to enhance understanding of their role as historic landscapes and ‘wild’ places of cultural and natural value for the future. Whilst much of this will be delivered through an online exhibition, we are planning two round table discussion events focusing on the historic value of peatlands, their tangible and intangible heritage and links between ecosystem services and heritage. This event is led by members of the Bright Edge Deep Team, a group of art historians, archaeologists and palaeoecologists with a concern for peatland heritage (past), management (present) and restoration (future).  The Bright Edge Deep project is part of the University of Glasgow’s ‘The Dear Green Bothy’ programme, the College of Arts’ collective response to COP26 and the wider challenges of climate emergency. 

This round table event will be the first of these two events and will be hosted as part of the University of Glasgow Archaeology Festival on the 11 August. The round table event will open with a keynote by Dr Ben Gearey (University College Cork; WetFutures) and will be followed by a discussion on themes of peatlands in history, cultural heritage, and climate. Collaborating projects include ‘WetFutures’, Ireland, Project ‘Wildscapes’ and the Tropical Wetlands Consortium.

This event is organised by: Dr Nicki Whitehouse & Dr Gareth Beale (University of Glasgow), Dr Tom Gardner (Historic Environment Scotland), Dr Althea Davies (University of St. Andrews) Dr Ben Gearey (University College Cork) & Rosie Everett (University of Warwick).

This event is open to anyone interested in peatlands; please register via Eventbrite here. Any queries may be addressed to nicki.whitehouse@glasgow.ac.uk or tom.gardner@hes.scot

Schedule:

Facilitator: Dr Gareth Beale (University of Glasgow)

Panel: Dr Nicki Whitehouse), Dr Tom Gardner (Historic Environment Scotland), Dr Althea Davies (University of St. Andrews) Dr Ben Gearey (University College Cork) & Rosie Everett (University of Warwick).

  • 18:00  Introduction to the Festival and Project - Dr Nicki Whitehouse
  • 18:05  Facilitator Introduction - Dr Gareth Beale
  • 18:10  Keynote from Dr Ben Gearey - Peatland Generations
  • 18:25  Discussion Theme 1 - Peatlands through History

Led by Rosie Everett, with Ben Gearey, Gareth Beale, Nicki Whitehouse, and Althea Davies.

Peatlands cover extensive parts of Britain and Ireland, and come in many different forms, from lowland fens and mires to upland blanket bog. Across time, peatlands have fundamentally impressed upon local, regional, and national consciousnesses, expressed by artistic endeavours, poetry and music, archaeological artefacts and identity. But what has made peatlands important throughout history? This discussion will attempt to identify:
- What distinct traits ‘make’ a peatland?
- How do peatlands function, and how did that impact humans in the past?
- Why and how do peatlands act as foci for human activity?

  • 18:40  Audience Questions on Theme 1
  • 18:50  Discussion Theme 2 - Peatlands and Cultural Heritage

Led by Althea Davies, with Rosie Everett, Ben Gearey, Tom Gardner and Nicki Whitehouse.

The waterlogged and acidic conditions in peatlands preserve detailed natural and cultural archives, in the form of archaeological and palaeoecological remains which can provide detailed evidence of how past communities lived and inhabited these landscapes. However, human land-use has also put peatlands at risk, with past peatland ‘reclamation’ and drainage for agriculture, afforestation and peat extraction being the principal legacies that determine the current state of peatlands. This degradation in turn puts peatland cultural heritage at risk. While efforts are underway to halt peat erosion and reinstate functioning (i.e. carbon-storing) conditions, the implications for the cultural heritage within peatlands rarely gets similar attention. This discussion will explore:
- What is distinctive about peatland heritage?
- How can palaeoecology evidence past human activity and ecological changes in peatlands?
- What are the main practical and policy challenges for jointly managing peatlands as carbon stores and as cultural heritage?

  • 19:05  Audience Questions on Theme 2
  • 19:15  Comfort Break
  • 19:25  Discussion on Theme 3 - Peatlands and Climate

Led by Tom Gardner, with Nicki Whitehouse, Althea Davies, Rosie Everett and Ben Gearey.

Because of their ability to sequester atmospheric carbon, peatlands are on the front line of the fight against human-induced climate change. Beyond CO², healthy peatlands act as water filters, biodiversity hubs and flood-defence networks, offering many ecosystem services to communities living downstream (and often unaware) how they benefit from having healthy peatlands. However, the restoration of peatlands across Britain and Ireland has led to conflict between restoration efforts and the preservation of cultural heritage. This discussion will outline:
- How can peatlands help us fight climate change and support local services?
- What are the benefits of healthy peatlands?
- Can peatland restoration be good for cultural heritage and archaeological sites?

  • 19:40  Audience Questions on Theme 3
  • 19:50  Closing Statements from Panel
  • 20:00  End of Event

First published: 28 July 2021