Peatlands are a major part of the Irish landscape and in good condition they are very important places for wildlife. Peatlands in Ireland include raised and blanket bogs, fens, as well as wet and dry heath.
They often form in poorly drained areas of high rainfall. There are two main types of peatland in Ireland: raised bogs and blanket bogs. Raised bogs form in the basin of former lakes and are mainly found in the midlands. Blanket bogs are mainly found in upland areas especially along the west coast of Ireland. These peatlands cover roughly 17.6% of the Irish landscape.
Peatland functions include:
- Habitat for many types of wildlife
- When they are in good condition act as a major carbon store and sinktrapping damaging greenhouse gases
- Storing and filtering water to keep it clean
- Preventing flooding
More information on the value of bogs can be found at the links below.
In a healthy bog, water levels are generally at or near the surface year-round. If the bog is dry, it is an indication that the water levels have dropped. A dry bog can’t support the same level of biodiversity, so the water levels must be restored.
Actions to Take:
Drains stop the bog from holding water and dry it out. This makes it a less suitable habitat for water-loving plants and animals. Dams installed along drainage ditches are a low-cost, easy method of rewetting the bog or wetland area. Dams can be made of plastic piling or of waterlogged, decomposed peat. While peat dams are cheaper, they are also generally less efficient dams than plastic piling and can only be used on narrower drains. For wide drains, plastic piling dams are more efficient.
Remove Trees from Bogs
Water tolerant trees such as alder and willow dry out sections of bog by absorbing the water through their roots. This drier bog can then be colonised by less water-tolerant trees, further drying the bog and changing the habitat. As such, it is important to promptly remove trees from the bog to avoid damaging the sensitive bog habitat. However, peatlands that have dried out and cannot feasibly be re wetted, then they may provide an interesting bog-woodland habitat.
Where grazing is suitable, it is important to only graze the amount of livestock that the bog/ peatland can support. Overgrazing, poaching and erosion can reduce the ability of the peatland to support wildlife and livestock. The National Parks and Wildlife Service in association with the Dept. of Agriculture and Food recommends a stocking level of 1 sheep per hectare to allow them to graze selectively. If feeding rings are present, moving them frequently can prevent poaching and nutrient enrichment.
- Irish Peatland Conservation Council have a peatland management and restoration toolkit here
- IUCN’s guide to managing bogs for conservation is available here
- Farm Wildlife UK provide information and conservation advice on bogs, heath and moorland here
- FFN Ambassador Bridget Murphy put together a presentation on Bogs and their Ecosystem Services here
- National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Guide to Farmland Actions for Pollinators here
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The development of these how to sections have been supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service
and the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine