Peatland Restoration for Enjoyment ; Allowing visitors to enjoy a newly-restored bog and the Marble Arch Caves

Introduction

The Marble Arch caves are a major tourist attraction and in 1989 severe flooding raised concern about visitor safety and the threat to tourism. Investigations revealed that the cause of the flooding was changes to the flow of water off the Cuilcagh Mountain. Commercial peat cutting, over –grazing, burning of vegetation and quad bike tracks had all contributed to this

Description

Cuilcagh Mountain (2,700 ha) is situated in Fermanagh in the west of Northern Ireland along the border with the Irish Republic. It is one of the largest expanses of blanket bog in Northern Ireland formed on a relatively high elevation upland landscape. In the late 1980s, this bog habitat was in bad shape. Years of overgrazing, mechanized peat harvesting and other mistreatment had damaged the sensitive bog ecosystem.For generations peat has been cut by hand as a source of fuel on Cuilcagh Mountain. The peat cutters were careful to remove the living layer, or sods of vegetation, off the bog surface before cutting the peat. After cutting, they replaced the sods of vegetation on the exposed peat surface helping to ensure that the bog was not irreparably damaged. However, since the 1980’s, machines have been used all over Ireland to cut peat. These machines are attached to the back of a tractor and one person can now cut in a few hours what it would have taken a week to cut by hand. An area of 28 ha of blanket bog within Cuilcagh Mountain Park has been severely damaged by mechanical peat extraction. In addition, 11km of drains were dug within the area.

Project Aims

Many Government bodies, conservation groups and academics have had to work together to repair the damage to the blanket bog and protect it for the future. The restoration process is ongoing and it may take many years before the vegetation recovers fully. Scientific monitoring by Queen’s University Belfast ensures that restoration action and development is recorded, so that experiments can be repeated and the work can inform others restoration projects.

Restoration Delivered

The visitors centre at the Marble Arch Caves includes displays on the story of the Cuilcagh and its restoration. Water level monitoring stations were established upstream of the Marble Arch Caves and sophisticated measuring equipment warns of increasing water levels, ensuring the safety of visitors to the caves. In addition, a geotextile-lined aggregate path, sometimes called a “floating trail,” allows hikers to enjoy the now-restored bog without damaging it. Similar paths are used all over Ireland, Scotland, and other bog-laden countries.

Site Activity

Marble Arch caves are a series of natural limestone caves near the village of Florencecourt in County Fermanagh. Water from Culicagh mountain drains into the caves, and the damage to the bog there meant water drained faster into the caves, raising the risk of flooding. Restoring the bog habitat on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mountain back to its fully functioning form was essential to ensure the safety of visitors to Marble Arch Caves. The Fermanagh District Council initiated a long-term project in conjunction with the RSPB using EU LIFE and UK Heritage Lottery funding. In 1998, the Council set up the Cuilcagh Mountain Park. The aim was to protect unaffected areas of the blanket bog and increase awareness of this rare habitat. This involves blocking drains using a variety of materials including hay and straw bales; recycled plastic and wooden sheeting;forestry ‘brash’; and the peat itself.

{"zoom":5,"lat":54.2017325,"lon":-7.8122694,"markers":{"0":{"lat":54.2017325,"lon":-7.8122694}}}

Project Name: Peatland Restoration for Enjoyment ; Allowing visitors to enjoy a newly-restored bog and the Marble Arch Caves

Organisation / Lead partner: Fermanagh District Council

Approximate area covered: 2500 ha

Predominately: Upland

Peat Habitats: Blanket bog

    Brown butterfly with black spots on pink bell shaped flower
    New species showcase - large heathOur latest species showcase introduces the large heath butterfly, its association with two iconic…
    Haresfoot cottongrass with blue sky in the background. Credit Laurie Campbell SNH
    New briefing addresses the peatlands and methane debateThe IUCN UK Peatland Programme has launched a new briefing “Peatlands and Methane” that summarises…
    Peatland with mountains in the background
    New £3 million fund for peatland restoration in Northern IrelandApplications for the new £3million Peatland Challenge Fund to help protect Northern Ireland's…
    Sphagnum moss on healthy peatland
    Scotland’s Peatland ACTION programme hits record restoration milestoneFor the first time since the Peatland ACTION programme began, more than 10,000 hectares of damaged…
    A cottongrass seedhead
    New species showcase - cottongrassOur May species showcase looks at the role that cottongrass plays in peatlands, its cultural and…
    Jennifer Fulton at an IUCN UK Peatland Programme conference
    Remembering Jennifer FultonWe, at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, are still reeling from the loss of Jennifer Fulton, Chief…
    Dotterel (c) Pete Quinn
    Conference 2024 tickets now on sale!Tickets for our 2024 conference in Aviemore, 17-19 September, are now on sale - join us to…
    Dunlin (c) RSPB
    New species showcase - dunlinThe third of our showcases explores the importance of dunlin as an indicator species for peatland…
    Landscape view of Red Moss of Balerno
    Peatland Code Public Consultation The Peatland Code is committed to continuous improvement and would like to invite you to comment on…
    Micrograph of testate amoeba showing internal structures
    Please give 10 minutes of your time to help answer the question: Is palaeoecological research utilised in UK peatland restoration projects? Can you complete a short survey on the extent to which palaeoecological research is utilised in UK…
    Group of people stood in an open peatland landscape
    Muirburn licencing made law in ScotlandScotland’s peatlands will benefit from increased protection due to a new law passed on 21st March…
    Molinia Mulching Agglestone Mire, remover higher tussocks to increase the connectivity of the floodplain (c) Sally Wallington
    Dorset peatland restorationThe Dorset Peat Partnership completed the first of their sixteen peatland restoration sites in…