Peatlands for Water

Peatlands (also called bogs) have been in the Irish landscape since the last Ice Age and represent the island of Irelands’ oldest surviving ecosystems. The island of Ireland has one of the largest areas of peat coverage in Europe and a lot of this peat is on privately owned, agricultural land.

Peatlands typically contain more than 95% water in a natural, undrained state, and play a vital role in regulating flow in our rivers, reducing flooding by storing water and releasing water slowly during periods of low rainfall. In fact, approximately 68% of the island of Ireland’s drinking water comes from peatland, whilst up to 75% of its soil carbon is in the form of peat.

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Draining peat to support agricultural productivity and cutting ‘turf’ for fuel, damages the ability of bogs to provide these essential functions, and, as they dry out, they release carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

The good news is that if we block drainage channels, peatlands can be partly restored by preventing water levels from declining further. Planting native plants in degraded areas, such as Sphagnum mosses, can also help by retaining water and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.

Source to Tap has produced an informative guide, full of links to useful resources on different techniques that landowners can use to re-wet agricultural peat.

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Source to Tap has investigated innovative techniques for restoring forests back to peat bogs. When a peat bog is damaged or drained, more organic matter gets into the water, colouring it and adding to costs at water treatment plants.

Tullychurry Forest Site

In October 2020, work began on restoring part of a 30ha peat bog at Tullychurry in County Fermanagh that had previously been planted with Lodgepole Pine in the 1960s. Much of the site had been harvested in the winter of 2019-2020.

The restoration involved trapping water and blocking drains. Initial results show that there has already been an improvement in biodiversity at the site.

Source to Tap trialled an innovative cell bunding technique that others can use to help restore degraded peatland. Cell bunding has been shown to work as a viable peat restoration technique for formerly afforested peatlands on flat terrain with deep peat. Over time restored peatland will capture carbon, improve water quality, support biodiversity and contribute to the climate change solutions.

To find out more, why not download our guide to the Tullychurry Forest Peatland Restoration Project Site Guide.

You can also visit the site for yourself to see the peatland restoration at Forest Service (NI)’s Tullychurry Forest, near Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh.

There is an interpretation panel on site that explains what has been done to help restore what was afforested land, back to functioning peatland.

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