Report identifies many benefits from restoring degraded bogs

Date released: Jul 18 2012

Jan O'Sullivan TD Minister of State, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government has today launched the final report of the EPA-funded "Carbon Restore" project.  The EPA research Report shows that breathing new life into cut-away and degraded boglands would provide climate, biodiversity, water and economic benefits.  The report was launched at an international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting being held in Dublin this week. The IPCC has a central role in informing the global response to climate change including on how to account for potential carbon benefits from restoring degraded bogs. 

UCD based Dr David Wilson led the “Carbon Restore” project and it was carried out with the cooperation of Bord na Móna which own much of Ireland’s depleted and degraded peatland. 

Laura Burke, EPA Director General said,

“The report indicates that there is significant potential to using restored industrial peatlands to address climate change and other environmental challenges for Ireland.  Climate change is a pressing issue that requires long term strategic responses, including in the management of land use.  This research also presents us with a vision of effective management of cutaway peatlands. Lands previously thought of as having little or no economic value are potentially valuable resources if subject to appropriate long term management.”

The report shows that:

  • Restoring highly degraded peatlands can provide an important sink for carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving climate change;
  • Restoring peat is possible as proven in a detailed study of a ‘rewetted’ industrial cutaway bog in Bellacorick, Co. Mayo;
  • ‘Rewetting’ can be managed so as to take up carbon dioxide and limit the release of other greenhouse gases which can be    produced when restoring peatland. 
  • Other benefits in water management and biodiversity also accrue.

The report demonstrates that the need to address climate change means that peatland, and particularly degraded peatland, may have a new economic future.  Almost 13 per cent of Ireland’s land cover is peatlands, unique ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity and water management and function as major carbon stores. 

Dr Frank McGovern, EPA Senior Scientist said,

“We are particularly pleased that this report is being launched at an IPCC expert meeting about good practice in international reporting and accounting systems for possible future restoration actions, which is being held here in Dublin this week.  The research has demonstrated that restoring peatland could make quantifiable contributions to climate, as well as other environmental issues”. 

The report, "Carbon Restore –The Potential of Restored Irish Peatlands for Carbon Uptake and Storage" (Climate Change Research Programme - Climate change) is available on the EPA website.

 

Notes to Editor:

1. Key Findings of the Report

The UCD project demonstrated the rapid return of ecosystem function in a rewetted cutaway peatland. The report shows that in certain circumstances, the net uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the biomass and other organic material is shown to be in excess of other greenhouse gas emissions from the rewetted peatland.  Importantly, the analysis makes an estimate of monetary value of the restored ecosystem function which demonstrates the links between sustainable economic activity and environment goals.  The report found that:

  • Practical rehabilitation measures can result in sharp reductions in emissions of CO2 on previously drained peatlands.
  • Furthermore, appropriate management may restore these peatlands to a carbon accumulation status resulting in a net removal of CO2 for the atmosphere.
  • However, these findings are based on limited monitoring at one site. 
  • There may be positive economic returns from peatland restoration should Ireland elect to account for these activities under the second Kyoto Protocol commitment period.

 2. Recommendations from the Report

  • Management plans for cutaway peatlands should be in place prior to cessation of extraction activity.
  • Long term monitoring of greenhouse gas fluxes on peatlands is essential to confirm the initial findings of this research.
  • The mapping and classification of ecosystem status of peatlands in Ireland needs to be undertaken.

 3. Current peatland management

Bord na Mona manage 80,000ha peatlands, of which some 60,000ha are of a severely degraded status due to drainage and peat extraction. It is estimated that 30,000ha of industrial cutaway may be available for restoration/rewetting over the next 20 years.  A much larger area of degraded peatland is managed by private actors (land owners or those exercising turbary rights).

 

Photographs from the report launch are available from media@epa.ie.