LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoring Active Blanket Bog in Ireland

Reference: LIFE02 NAT/IRL/008490 | Acronym: Blanket bog

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

Ireland began a reforestation programme in the early 1900s following centuries of exploitation of native woodlands and deforestation for agriculture. Successive governments supported a programme of plantation establishment but a strong farming lobby ensured that this was confined mainly to marginal sites unsuitable for agriculture. Peatlands (both blanket and raised bog) were one of these site types and, until their ecological value was fully appreciated, they were regarded as wasteland to be converted to more productive uses. Forestry was one of those uses and large scale annual afforestation programmes were undertaken resulting in large areas of blanket bogs being drained and planted with conifers (Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine) which were the only species that would provide an economic return on these marginal lands.

Today Ireland's blanket peatlands constitute a vital resource that is recognised as a genetic reserve, an important wildlife habitat and a barometer of past climates and environments. Indeed, the peatlands in the west of the country are among the most important intact areas of active blanket bog to be found in Europe. Along with the peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland – also known as the Flow Country (Scotland) – and of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, these form the heartland of the world's blanket mire resource.

Since 1997, more than 135 000 ha of active blanket bog, located mainly in the Atlantic seaboard counties of Ireland, have been included in the Natura 2000 network. However, significant areas had already disappeared under a canopy of commercial forest plantations while the open areas, being unfenced, suffered from ever-increasing grazing pressures. The result has been an extensive degradation and desiccation of the habitat. The tide however, recently began to turn. Coillte Teoranta (the Irish Forestry Board) for instance, set aside 15% of its landholding for biodiversity. This created a unique opportunity to reverse past damages and begin to restore key afforested bog areas.


OBJECTIVES

The overall aim of this strategic project – the first of its kind in Ireland to be run by a key Natura 2000 landowner and stakeholder – was to demonstrate that the restoration of suitable active blanket bog sites is a real management option on afforested peatlands. Using its own land, the Irish Forestry Board (the project beneficiary) aimed to restore up to 2 000 ha (1 989 ha) of blanket bog on 20 sites to a favourable conservation states and in particular, to extend the area of blanket bog by means of tree removal, so that the area free from the impacts of afforestation would be enlarged by up to 1 000 ha thereby increasing the likelihood of recolonistaion with rare or endangered species according to the EU Habitats Directive.

Meeting this overall objective would be further facilitated by the blocking of drains on approximately 1 500 ha of cleared or open bog areas and to reverse the impact of grazing by fencing some 550 ha of open bog and remove naturally regenerating trees from areas, as required. Actions would include fencing to gain control of grazing on open bog areas, ditch blocking to restore the integrity of the bogs' hydrological systems, cutting down of forest plantations on 500 ha of bog that was still capable of natural regeneration and removal of naturally regenerated trees.

Special emphasis would be given to sites in County Mayo, where the full range of bog types occurs, from lowland to mountain blanket bog. Five sites were selected as demonstration sites where there would be a focus on public awareness through demonstration days, interpretation and boardwalk access. The project would be supported by the experiences of LIFE Nature blanket bog restoration projects in the United Kingdom.


RESULTS

The project met all of its physical targets, with some minor amendments – achieving 97% of tree removal, 99% of dam installation and surpassing fencing targets (achieving 105%). Broader objectives were also met. These included the demonstration and interpretation of the techniques of bog land restoration and dissemination of the project results nationally and internationally.

Project successes include:

  • Initiation of the recovery of blanket bog vegetation at all sites
  • Trialling and use of the ‘windrowing’ technique (i.e. intensive site preparation, that removes logging debris and non commercial woody vegetation into rows) as an ecologically effective and cost-effective way of clearing the majority of bog surface of tree cover and allowing the more rapid regeneration of the bog vegetation.
  • Monitoring of the vegetation recovery at sites – providing important data regarding the recovery of potential blanket bog areas that supported differing ages of conifer crop. These results can be used in future management of sites.
  • Additionally, the beneficiary devoted considerable efforts on the dissemination of the information to a wide range of stakeholders and mounted an impressive media campaign from an early stage. The project website contains a great deal of useful information. Some 20 000 project brochures have been widely distributed and the Layman's Report is also available from the website. The five demonstration sites established under the project will continue to be available for education and dissemination purposes. The beneficiary also produced an informative DVD in collaboration with a follow-on LIFE Nature project, “Restoring raised bogs in Ireland” (LIFE04 NAT/IE/000121) run by the same beneficary.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).The project met all of its physical targets, with some minor amendments – achieving 97% of tree removal, 99% of dam installation and surpassing fencing targets (achieving 105%). Broader objectives were also met. These included the demonstration and interpretation of the techniques of bog land restoration and dissemination of the project results nationally and internationally.

    Project successes include:

  • Initiation of the recovery of blanket bog vegetation at all sites
  • Trialling and use of the ‘windrowing’ technique (i.e. intensive site preparation, that removes logging debris and non commercial woody vegetation into rows) as an ecologically effective and cost-effective way of clearing the majority of bog surface of tree cover and allowing the more rapid regeneration of the bog vegetation.
  • Monitoring of the vegetation recovery at sites – providing important data regarding the recovery of potential blanket bog areas that supported differing ages of conifer crop. These results can be used in future management of sites.
  • Additionally, the beneficiary devoted considerable efforts on the dissemination of the information to a wide range of stakeholders and mounted an impressive media campaign from an early stage. The project website contains a great deal of useful information. Some 20 000 project brochures have been widely distributed and the Layman's Report is also available from the website. The five demonstration sites established under the project will continue to be available for education and dissemination purposes. The beneficiary also produced an informative DVD in collaboration with a follow-on LIFE Nature project, “Restoring raised bogs in Ireland” (LIFE04 NAT/IE/000121) run by the same beneficary.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).

    ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


    Reference: LIFE02 NAT/IRL/008490
    Acronym: Blanket bog
    Start Date: 01/07/2002
    End Date: 31/12/2007
    Total Budget: 4,195,693 €
    EU Contribution: 3,146,770 €
    Project Location: Ireland

    CONTACT DETAILS


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Coillte Teoranta (The Irish Forestry Board)
    Legal Status: PUBLIC
    Address: Central Park, Harbour street, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland
    Contact Person:
    Email:
    Tel:
    Website: www.irishbogrestorationproject.ie


    LIFE Project Map

    ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

    THEMES

    • Bogs and Mires

    KEYWORDS

    • grazing
    • land use planning
    • landscape conservation policy
    • renaturation
    • wetlands ecosystem
    • site rehabilitation
    • public awareness campaign
    • forestry
    • forest management
    • land restoration
    • restoration measure
    • conflicting use
    • drainage system
    • environmentally responsible behaviour

    TARGET EU LEGISLATION

    • COM(98)42 -"Communication on a European Community Biodiversity Strategy" (05.02.1998)
    • COM(95) 189 - "Communication on the judicious use and conservation of wetlands" (12.12.1995)
    • Decision 93/626 - Conclusion of the Convention on Biological Diversity (25.10.1993)
    • Directive 92/43 - Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora- Habitats Directive (21.05.1992)
    • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" (27.03.2001)

    TARGET HABITAT TYPES

    • 3130 - Oligotrophic to mesotrophic standing waters with vegetation of the Littorelletea uniflorae and/or of the Isoëto-Nanojuncetea
    • 3160 - Natural dystrophic lakes and ponds
    • 3260 - Water courses of plain to montane levels with the Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation
    • 4010 - Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix
    • 4060 - Alpine and Boreal heaths
    • 7130 - Blanket bogs (* if active bog)

    SPECIES

    • None or non applicable

    BENEFICIARIES

    Name Type
    Coillte Teoranta (The Irish Forestry Board) Coordinator
    None Participant

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