The Future of Irish Bogs

Ireland’s peatland biodiversity is constantly changing and profoundly dynamic as a result of human use of the land as well as natural processes and events. The variety of floral and faunal communities has been much changed or reduced by a combination of pressures and threats.

Drivers of current and future peatland biodiversity change are:

  1. Habitat change (reclamation for agriculture, afforestation, drainage, overgrazing, erosion, quarrying, wind-farm development, dumping, burning, recreation in the form of walking, horse riding, quads, etc.)
  2. Exploitation (industrial extraction for fuel and horticulture and domestic turf cutting)
  3. Nutrient pollution
  4. Invasive species
  5. Climate change

These drivers of biodiversity change are not independent in that some are the direct result of biodiversity change itself (e.g. invasive species). Some of these threats have had serious impacts on peatland biodiversity in the past (habitat change), some are currently causing biodiversity loss (turf cutting and nutrient pollution) and other threats are likely to cause severe damage in the future (climate change and invasive species).

Overall, the most critical drivers of biodiversity change (1, 2 and 3 above) are projected to remain constant or even increase in the near future. The vast majority of Irish peatlands are critically at risk of future disturbances, particularly as a consequence of climate change.  Predicted changes are likely to affect low Atlantic blanket bogs in the west of Ireland the least while the areas showing greatest changes in precipitation and temperature are the areas containing basin peat in the Midlands (EPA, 2011).

In this context. the Climate Change Advisory Council's (CACC) 2020 Annual Review highlighted the need for improved management of high-carbon soils, including peatlands, as a key tool to mitigate climate change. Moreover, opportunities exist for many co-benefits from rewetting peatlands, including eco-tourism, biodiversity, soil, water and air quality improvements and local amenity values. Peatlands have the potential to play a key role in the possible development of green infrastructure initiatives and in protecting biodiversity, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and supporting resilience in other sectors (CACC, 2020).

previousPrevious - Raised Bog
Next - National Conservation Effortsnext