A community-led project in the Conamara Gaeltacht will restore a five-acre bog in Seanadh Phéistín, and will research potential income sources for turbary rights holders from the provision of eco services and selling carbon credits.

The project is a partnership between the arts company Ciotóg, Údarás na Gaeltachta, and researchers at NUI Galway and it will launch on Saturday, August 27.

The partnership was initiated by Ríonach Ní Néill through the Baint an Aeir climate art project, which brings together artists, scientists and the public to consider how to harness the traditions and customs of the Conamara Gaeltacht, its landscape and locally managed natural resources to realise a decarbonised future.

“The Gaeltacht community has always worked, and relied on, the bogs. Now we are relying on the bogs to fight climate change,” said Ríonach.

“A drained bog emits carbon, loses water and is a fire risk, while an intact bog captures and stores carbon, and is a water reservoir which can mitigate flood and fire risk – and is an important wildlife habitat.

“We need a just transition for peatland communities. This project aims to strengthen the deep connection between the Gaeltacht community and the bog through developing sustainable local peatland management” she said.

Dr. Terry Morley and Niall Ó Brolcháin from NUI Galway – both of whom are involved in several peatland-restoration projects – are leading the restoration.

Carbon-capturing bogs

This project is part of an EU LIFE project called Multi-Peat, which aims to optimise the hydrological system of degraded peatlands across five countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and recover the optimal conditions to restart their sequestering functions, while overcoming obstacles in multi-stakeholder landscapes.

The work will include measuring GHG emissions on the site in its current state, and assessment of the reduction in emissions and increase in carbon storage that could be achieved though rewetting and restoration, as well as assessment of income from carbon credits and ecoservices.

The work will be carried out in consultation with turbary rights holders and the public, and the results will be publicly available, according to the project coordinators.

In the future, people may boast – not about how much turf they managed to extract – but how much carbon they managed to capture!

“We are very excited to be working together with Údarás, local artists, and the public to reduce uncertainties with water-table management in Connemara bogs to optimise private use and public goods and services,” said wetland ecologist at NUI Galway, Dr. Terry Morley.

“We hope that this project will demonstrate how we can work together to improve the local environment by reducing emissions, and restoring water quality and wildlife habitat while providing a source of income from these activities,” he added.

An outdoor classroom

The bog will be used as an outdoor classroom throughout the project. The public is invited to participate in the restoration and monitoring work, and there will be regular arts, heritage and science events held on the bog too.

Údarás na Gaeltachta is providing the bog and co-funding the work. This is the first time one of its bogs will be restored.

“I welcome this important project, which is consistent with Údarás na Gaeltachta’s Gaeltacht Glas and sustainability strategies. It fits with the local heritage and with our community and local development activity as well,” said CEO of Údarás na Gaeltachta, Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh.

The launch takes place between 10.30 and 12.30, and all are welcome. A free bus service will bring people from the Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge carpark in an Cheathrú Rua, and back.