THE expertise of a partnership protecting some of the region’s most precious countryside has been shared with a global audience.

As one of the biggest programmes of peatland restoration in the UK, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership was called upon this month at a European conference that attracted delegates from around the world.

Paul Leadbitter, the AONB’s Peatland Programme Manager, attended the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Peatland Programme’s conference in Brussels to discuss the partnership's success at managing and restoring one of the world’s most valuable ecosystems.

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The North Pennines AONB Peatland Programme has restored more than 250sq km of peatland in the northern region and has been working with the IUCN since 2008 to share its experience of working with landowners and partners to restore the internationally protected habitat.

A new publication that will be read by industry experts around the world, which the North Pennines AONB Partnership’s Peatland Programme contributed towards, was also launched at the conference.

Mr Leadbitter said: “Europe has a crucial part to play, not only in conserving and restoring its own peatlands, but also in extending support and knowledge around the world.

“The North Pennines AONB has the largest upland peatland in England and our restoration work is helping to deliver the IUCN’s one million hectare peatland restoration target.

“The IUCN Peatland Programme’s work is a crucial aspect in promoting the importance of peatland to society at the international level and we wanted to support the development of this booklet and launch in Brussels.”

Peatlands are the single largest land based store of carbon and the UK is among the world-leaders in peatland restoration.

Benefits of restored peatlands include safeguarding the carbon they store and improved water quality and supply.

Despite the AONB Partnership reversing the damaging effects of its decline in the North Pennines, there is still more than 750 sq km that needs help.

Peat soils form when conditions do not allow plants to decompose completely.

Most of the peatland in the North Pennines is “blanket bog”, which is described as a unique type of peat habitat that is only found in cool, wet regions.

The area boasts 27 per cent of England's blanket bog.