Climate change is one of the key challenges facing Ireland and the world at present. There is significant evidence that our climate is changing due to increased carbon emissions and this will have significant impacts on biodiversity, local communities, society and economy by affecting issues like weather events, agriculture and the environment.
The Government have developed a series of measures to begin to tackle this issue. The National Climate Action Plan starts to develop objectives and actions that Ireland can take to combat climate change.
Bord Na Móna Brown to Green Strategy
Bord na Móna is following a decarbonisation strategy aimed at reducing the carbon emissions from its activities that will support this national plan. Bord na Móna's Brown to Green strategy is focused on supporting and delivering Ireland’s objective, to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Peatlands are important for the carbon cycle as they contain 25-33% of global soil organic carbon but only cover 3-6% of land surface. Peatlands store more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem.
PCAS will deliver benefits across climate action due to greenhouse gas mitigation through improved carbon storage, reduced carbon emissions and acceleration towards carbon sequestration in suitable areas.
Reduction in Carbon Emissions
One of the easiest ways to reduce carbon emissions from land-use is the managed rewetting of peatlands. The first step is stopping industrial peat extraction. Re-wetting improves carbon storage and locks the residual peat in the ground. Developing stable cutaway peatland habitats reduces carbon emissions so that the emission of greenhouse gases or via water runoff are reduced. A portion of the peatlands will also have the potential to re-develop carbon sequestration in a short period (10-30 years) and will redevelop carbon sinks. Bord na Móna have been re-wetting peatlands for some time under the supervision of our PCAS staff.
Improving Carbon Storage
There is a world-wide consensus that restoration of hydrology in damaged peatlands can improve carbon storage.
Researchers in Ireland have also reached the same conclusion for Irish peatlands. The Environmental Protection Agency funded the BOGLAND project (Renou-Wilson et. al., 2011) and concluded that restoration and the managed re-wetting of Irish bogs was essential for returning damaged peatlands on a trajectory towards becoming peat-forming ecosystems again. The EPA-funded Carbon Restore Project (Renou-Wilson et. al., 2011) also reported that actively managed rewetting of drained peatlands in Ireland can lead to restoration of functional peatland, such as the return of typical plant and animal species, which in turn may lead to the restoration of peat-formation and the Carbon-sink function.
Degraded peatlands have usually been drained. Therefore, almost universally, measures to reinstate species and habitat diversity are supported by hydrological management (rewetting) that aim to improve habitat conditions by increasing surface wetness of the peat (Renou-Wilson et al., 2011, 2018; Minayeva et al., 2017).
Rewetting peat is the key action to retain and maximise the value of peatland as a carbon store, and to promote carbon absorption by the peatland vegetation and to restore sites on a trajectory to becoming carbon sinks (Renou-Wilson et al., 2011, 2018, Anderson et al., 2017).
Read more about the NEROS Project (NEROS Project)
Anderson, R., Farrell, C., Graf, M., Muller, F., Calvar, E., Frankard, P., Caporn, S., Anderson, P. (2017). An overview of the progress and challenges of peatland restoration in Western Europe. Restoration Ecology, Issue 2 Pages 271-282.
Günther, A., Barthelmes, A., Huth, V., Joosten, H.,Jurasinski, G., Koebsch, F. & Couwenberg, J. (2020). Prompt rewetting of drained peatlands reduces climate warming despite methane emissions. Nature Communications volume 11, Article number: 1644.
Minayeva, T. et al. (2017). Towards ecosystem-based restoration of peatland biodiversity. Mires and Peat, Volume 19 (2017), Article 01, 1–36, http://www.mires-and-peat.net.
Regan, S., Swenson, M., O’Connor, M. & Gill, L. (2020). Ecohydrology, Greenhouse Gas Dynamics and Restoration Guidelines for Degraded Raised Bogs. EPA RESEARCH PROGRAMME 2014–2020. Report
Renou-Wilson F., Bolger T., Bullock C., Convery F., Curry J. P., Ward S., Wilson D. & Müller C. (2011). BOGLAND - Sustainable Management of Peatlands in Ireland. STRIVE Report No 75 prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency. Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.
Wilson, D., Renou-Wilson, F., Farrell, C., Bullock, C. and Muller, C. (2012). Carbon Restore – the potential of restored Irish peatlands for carbon uptake and storage; CCRP Report. EPA Wexford.
Renou-Wilson, F., Wilson, D., Rigney, D., Byrne, K., Farrell, C. and Müller C. (2018). Network Monitoring Rewetted and Restored Peatlands/Organic Soils for Climate and Biodiversity Benefits (NEROS). Report No. 238. Report prepared for the Environmental Protection Agency. Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford.
Gunther et al. (2020) also concludes that postponing rewetting of degraded peatlands increases the long-term warming effect through continued CO2 emissions.