A community science project has been launched by a leading national charity to gather data on peatland.

New analysis published by the RSPB revealed that three quarters of the 2.7 million hectares of peatland in the UK are degraded, and only two to four per cent has been restored in the last three decades.

The North Pennines is home to a large portion of England’s peatlands.

The RSPB wants to see an end to “destructive” practices such as the continued extraction and sale of peat, the conversion of peatlands to forestry and the burning of vegetation on peatlands.

The charity has created a new burning report system, where walkers, hikers, and countryside lovers can log any upland burning they see take place.

It claims upland burning is carried out to increase the number of grouse for gamebird shooting.

Dr Pat Thompson, senior policy officer for RSPB said: “On our own nature reserves, such as at Dovestone in the Peak District, we are restoring blanket bogs by re-wetting the moors and re-introducing peat-forming sphagnum mosses.

“This is progressing well, and it just shows what can be done to conserve nature and carbon at the same time.

“We also know that keeping these places wet makes them more resilient to the impact of wildfires, as well as slowing the flow of water off the moors which reduces the risk of flooding.

“We look forward to the release of the Government’s long-promised strategy for England’s peatlands before the end of the year, and with it a commitment to better protect and restore peatlands, including bringing an end to the outdated practice of burning.

“This would signal a strong commitment to these special places.”

Land owners have defended the practice of heather burning. Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association which represents moor owners and managers, said burning of the heather was a crucial tool for the restoration and protection of peatlands, and reduces fuel loads and risk of wildfire.