What is restoration?
Ecological restoration can be defined as: “the process of re-establishing to the greatest extent possible the structure, function and integrity of indigenous ecosystems and the sustaining habitats they provide,” (SER 2004). Defined in this way, restoration encompasses the repair of ecosystems (Whisenant 1999) and the improvement of ecological conditions in damaged wildlands through the reinstatement of ecological processes.
Restoration of Cutaway Peatlands
There is an increasing understanding that some ecosystems such as Bord na Móna cutaway peatlands cannot be restored back to raised bog in a short timeframe as their environmental baseline has changed so radically. This is due in part to the removal of the acrotelm – the living layer of plants, and much of the peat mass. However, they can be returned to a trajectory towards a naturally functioning peatland system through rehabilitation.
Bord na Móna Raised Bog Restoration Programme
Bord na Móna have been working to restore development bog sites for over 10 years (Bord Na Mona - Restoration Programme). Development bogs are sites that were drained but never developed or have very limited peat extraction. They retained raised bog vegetation and characteristics and have potential to be restored. The restoration of these sites (e.g. Ballydangan Bog) aids Ireland in its commitments towards raised bog conservation and the EU Habitats Directive.
Bord na Móna re-wetted these bogs via intensive drain-blocking to raise water-levels. This encourages the natural re-growth of Sphagnum mosses, a key raised bog species.
Several bogs and raised bog remnants within PCAS will be targeted for raised bog restoration. This includes Kellysgrove Bog. Bog restoration will be aligned with Best Practice guidelines (Mackin et al. 2018 – link to best practice guidelines). Bog restoration in PCAS will contribute towards the overall Bord na Móna Bog Restoration Programme.
Deep Peat Cutover Bogs
There is potential to re-develop Sphagnum-rich plant communities in Bord na Móna bogs where there are significant depths of peat remaining. Sites with a shorter peat extraction history tend to have more acidic exposed peat type compared to typical cutaway bog where the majority of peat has been removed.
While cutaway bog tends to be characterized as bogs where peat has been almost completely removed, there is a range of conditions across Bord Na Móna bogs from cutaway to bogs with deeper residual peat (Deep peat Cutover Bog).
This brings the opportunity of re-developing Sphagnum-rich vegetation communities that are considered carbon sinks and restoring the carbon sequestration function of part of these bogs. Typical raised bog Sphagnum mosses will colonize this type of more acidic peat where there are suitable hydrological conditions. PCAS will look to optimize these hydrological conditions and maximize their extent.