Report on degraded bogs published

 

The 're-wetting' of a cutaway bog in Bellacorrick, Co Mayo, after it was used for years to fuel a local turf-fired power station, could be an example of what to do with industrialised peatlands elsewhere in Ireland, a new report has found.

Bord na Móna manages 80,000 hectares of peatlands, of which some 60,000 hectares are of “severely degraded” status due to drainage and peat extraction. It is estimated that 30,000 hectares of industrial cutaway may be available for restoration/rewetting over the next 20 years.

Commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Carbon Restore report by Dr David Wilson of UCD, an expert in measuring greenhouse gases, shows that re-wetting cutaway bogs would provide climate, biodiversity, water and economic benefits.

The report was launched at an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expert meeting being held in Dublin this week on “good practice in international reporting and accounting systems” for possible future restoration actions of degraded peatlands.

The IPCC has a central role in informing the global response to climate change, including on how to account for the potential carbon benefits from the restoration of degraded bogs. This would prove crucial for Ireland in offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from other sources.

The research report, which was carried out with the co-operation of Bord na Móna, “indicates that there is significant potential to using restored industrial peatlands to address climate change and other environmental challenges,” said EPA director-general Laura Burke.

“This research also presents us with a vision of effective management of cutaway peatlands. Lands previously thought of as having little or no economic value are potentially valuable resources if subject to appropriate long-term management,” she added.

The report shows that restoring highly degraded peatlands can provide an important “sink” for carbon dioxide and that re-wetting can be managed so to take up carbon dioxide and limit the release of other greenhouse gases which may be produced when restoring peatland.

The report demonstrates that the need to address climate change means that peatland, and particularly degraded peatland, may have a new economic future as a carbon sink if Ireland chooses to account for re-wetting and other initiatives under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol.

It shows that practical rehabilitation measures “can result in sharp reductions in emissions of CO2 on previously drained peatlands.” Almost 13 per cent of Ireland’s land cover is peatlands, some of it protected under the EU directives because of its ecological value.

The report recommends that management plans for cutaway bogs should be in place prior to the cessation of extraction activity, that greenhouse gas “fluxes” on peatlands should be monitored and that the ecological status of peatlands needs to be mapped and classified.

The Carbon Restore report is available at epa.ie