The Bord na Móna Raised Bog Restoration Project
Since its establishment in 1946, Bord na Móna (the Irish Peat Company) has acquired extensive areas of Irish peatlands to develop for fuel, energy and horticultural growing media. Several raised bogs that were partially drained in the 1980s were identified as having substantial ecological and conservation value, as well as significant restoration potential. They now form the core of the Bord na Móna Raised Bog Restoration programme (2009 to present) which forms part of the company’s Biodiversity Action Plan (2010-2015).
Learning from previous experience - Abbeyleix Bog In 2009, restoration work began at Abbeyleix Bog in Co. Laois. This work was managed and co-funded by Bord na Móna and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Initially drained in the 1980s, the margins of the 109 ha bog had been cut for domestic use. To restore the raised bog habitat, drains were blocked to raise water levels, re-wetting the bog and aiding the development of Sphagnum-rich plant communities and peatland habitat function. Consultation was carried out prior to restoration with the local community and other stakeholders, including local authorities and the Irish Peatland Conservation Council.
At this stage over 400 ha of raised bog have been restored using this methodology and Bord na Móna will continue the rewetting of other sites in Cos. Galway and Roscommon with an additional 2000 ha targeted for restoration in coming years. Intensive drain-blocking is currently underway at Ballydangan Bog - one of the largest and wettest bogs in a cluster of bogs that will be restored and that form an important network for native Red Grouse locally. At such an early stage, it is difficult to make definitive conclusions about the impacts of this restoration but, in general, water levels have been responding quickly and are being maintained very close to the bog surface. Changes in habitat quality of these sites will be monitored to assess the success of the work, both in the short and long term. Monitoring of greenhouse gases is also taking place on the restored bogs to assess the potential offset of carbon by rewetting drained bogs.
After the restoration work was completed in 2011, Bord na Móna leased Abbeyleix Bog to a local community group who continue to develop the nature conservation, amenity and education potential of the site. The community organises regular clearance of invasive Rhododendron and also held a local Bioblitz event in 2013, yielding 355 species with new county records.
The methodology used was developed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service under the Dutch-Irish Restoration programme in the 1990s. A topographical survey was carried out to identify peat dam locations and this was then followed by an extensive drain-blocking programme. Work was carried out by a specially modified excavator and over 3500 dams were installed over a four month period (one for every 10 cm fall in height). This methodology has since been used successfully by Bord na Móna as part of the company’s wider bog restoration programme at other sites including Cuckoo Hill Bog in Co. Roscommon in 2011, Moyarwood Bog, Co. Galway in 2012 and Ballydangan Bog in Co. Roscommon in 2013 (ongoing).
Project Name: The Bord na Móna Raised Bog Restoration Project
Organisation / Lead partner: Bord na Mόna
Peat Habitats: Lowland raised bog
Project Type: Restoration
Year Project Began: 2009