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Rehabilitation of Cutaway Bogs

Almost all peatlands in Ireland have been modified to some degree and require some level of management to prevent further degradation and/or improve and enhance their condition

There is a growing recognition that investment in restoration and rehabilitation of peatlands can have enormous benefits for society both in terms of social and natural capital. Bord na Móna carries out restoration of peatlands where possible, but for the majority of our land-bank the remaining landscape will be a cutaway bog one, and rehabilitation will be the main objective in these areas (see terminology at the end of this page).

The rehabilitation planning process within Bord na Móna has developed considerably over the last ten years to address the complexity of the process itself and the changing nature of the bogs as peat production continues. Condition 10 of each of the nine Bord na Móna IPC licenses relates to decommissioning and permanent rehabilitation of all bog areas. The main features of the process and how each aspect of Condition 10 has been addressed is outlined in the following sections.

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Example of a Working Bog and a Rehabilitated Bog

Bord na Mona BogIt is important to recognise that peat production is an ongoing and long-term activity and will continue at a number of Bord na Móna bog areas for several years to come. During this time, the bog drainage and physical character will also change. Until then, broad rehabilitation outlines can be drawn under draft rehabilitation plans, with definitive plans not being developed until peat production is within 1-2 years of cessation date. In the lead in time, there are (at minimum) annual updates with all Peat Production Managers in licensed bog areas; an ongoing baseline survey and continued research into rehabilitation methods and outcomes.

The main considerations in planning for the rehabilitation of the cutaway bogs and the general features included in each of the draft rehabilitation plans includes:

  • A description of main factors affecting rehabilitation and potential after-uses of the cutaway bog including physical (peat depth), chemical (pH), economic and social aspects;
  • A description of the rehabilitation practices and potential after-uses of the peat production sites that have been considered to date;
  • An outline of the timeframe whereby cutaway bog rehabilitation plans will be developed post peat production, incorporating practical aspects, levels of decision making and consultation;
  • An outline of the expected outcome (future habitats) post rehabilitation.

John Feehan at launch of Biodiversity Action Plan 2016 In 2013, the Ecology Team submitted draft rehabilitation plans for each of the Bord na Móna bogs. The first review was held in 2015 and the plans will continue to be reviewed on a bi-annual basis. The main elements required for rehabilitation post peat production are stabilisation of former bare peat areas largely attained through natural processes of re-vegetation which may require fertiliser/seeding; surface manipulation and/or hydrological management (drain/outfall blocking). These basic features are outlined in the Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan with an update on trials and methods presented in the 2016-2021 plan.

Extensive research has also been carried out on potential commercial development of the cutaway bogs (agriculture, forestry, renewable energy (biomass, wind farms etc.) and eco-tourism). The outcome of this work is outlined in a number of publications including the recent Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan 2010 – 2015 and the Bord na Móna Strategic Framework for Future Use of Cutaway Bogs document 2011.

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Terminology

It should be noted that the terms relating to restoration, rehabilitation and after-use can be defined as follows:

Restoration

The process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed.

Rehabilitation

Refers to the environmental stabilisation of the former peat production areas or cutaway bogs. This usually involves some form of management to ensure the revegetation of former peat production fields and/or habitat creation/enhancement (as outlined in Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan 2010-2015). It may also include reclamation for agriculture and/or forestry, and/or amenity use.

Rehabilitation Plan

Outlines the current baseline condition of the bog on cessation of peat production and the proposed work plan, time frame and costing of work required to implement appropriate rehabilitation and monitor its effectiveness. The development and implementation of a rehabilitation plan for each bog area is an assurance that when Bord na Móna withdraws from industrial peat production at any site that it will do so in an environmentally responsible way. The rehabilitation plan will take consideration of other potential after-uses (such as renewable energy projects) that are proposed for any given bog area.