Bord na Móna has a long history of involvement with raised bog restoration. Since its establishment in 1946, Bord na Móna has acquired extensive areas of Irish peatlands to develop for fuel, energy and horticultural growing media. In addition, since the 1970’s-1980’s, Bord na Móna transferred a significant area of raised bog to National Parks and Wildlife Service and An Taisce for conservation.
During the Ecology Team baseline survey carried out between 2009 and 2012, a number of raised bogs partially drained for peat production in the 1980’s were subsequently identified as being of high ecological and conservation value, as well as having significant restoration potential. These bogs are essentially surplus to peat production requirements and lie outside the active industrial peat production areas. We decided to carry out restoration works and conserve these bogs. These high ecological value sites now form the core of the current Bord na Móna Raised Bog Restoration Project (2009 to present) which has been developed as one strand of the Company’s Biodiversity Action Plan (2016-2021).
The main objective of this project is to restore raised bog habitats at several sites. Raised bogs are threatened as only a small proportion of active raised bog still exists in Ireland. They contain a wide range of different, many of which are threatened or under pressure in the wider landscape and are dependent on habitats like raised bogs. Restoration of ecosystem function at these sites will also help Ireland meet its biodiversity objectives including commitments to conserve raised bog habitats under the EU Habitats Directive. Bog restoration also helps restore other ecosystem services including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing water quality and water storage capacity. It also provides space for development of collaborative amenity and education projects.
The main objective of raised bog restoration is to restore raised bog habitats by blocking drains, re-wetting the bog, restoring bog hydrology and aiding the development of Sphagnum-rich plant communities. Re-wetting encourages the growth of Sphagnum mosses, which require water-logged nutrient-poor conditions. Peat-forming or “Active” raised bog is rich in Sphagnum mosses. Bog drains are blocked by peat-dams using a specially adapted low-bearing pressure excavator. The standard bog restoration methodology used in the Bord na Móna restoration work was developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service under the Dutch-Irish Restoration programme in the 1990s.
Changes in habitat quality of the restored sites are being monitored to assess the success of the work. This involves mapping habitat condition and monitoring changes in bog vegetation communities. In general, water levels have responded quickly and are being maintained close to the bog surface. There has already been a notable increase in Sphagnum cover in some sites already. Monitoring of greenhouse gases has taken place at Moyarwood as part of a larger project to assess the potential offset of carbon emissions. Preliminary results indicate that bog restoration has helped to significantly reduce carbon emissions. The bog restoration project has been ongoing for several years now and monitoring of the first restored sites indicates that the bog restoration works have had a positive impact. For example, peat-forming habitat at Abbeyleix Bog increased from 0.9 ha in 2009 to 3.2 ha in 2014.
Over 1,400 ha of raised bog have been restored using this methodology so far and Bord na Móna will continue restoration with almost 3,000 ha of high bog targeted. More information on specific site can be found here. The work continues to be funded under the Bord na Móna Biodiversity Action Plan. The majority of the sites restored so far are being considered for designation as part of the NATURA 2000 SAC network or as part of the national conservation network as NHAs (Natural Heritage Areas). See National Peatlands Strategy.
Comparison of the 2014 monitoring survey to the 2009 baseline showed that:
In 2010, Moore Gun Club approached Bord na Móna about the development of a conservation project at Ballydangan in Co. Roscommon focused on Red Grouse. This site still held low numbers of this peatland bird, which is particularly rare now on lowland bogs. Since then, 234ha of the bog have been leased to this local group for the development of a community project, which now employs several local people through a community employment scheme (Department of Social Protection). While Grouse numbers remain low so far, conservation management has already boosted numbers of breeding Curlew, whose breeding population has significantly declined in recent years. Ballydangan and surrounding bogs remain an important stronghold for this iconic bog species.
Bord na Móna began bog restoration work on Ballydangan in 2013. Open drains were blocked across the high bog to raise water levels, re-wetting the bog and aiding the development of Sphagnum-rich plant communities and peatland habitat function. 3744 peat-dams were built across the site.