The six-year ‘Living Bog’ project which was launched in 2016 is finishing up this month, and has presented its achievements at its end-of-project conference in Athlone, Co. Westmeath today (Tuesday, March 8).

The conference heard that between the years 2016 and 2021, the condition of more than 2,650ha of raised bog habitat has been improved through the programme, and that it is on track to achieve over 720ha of active raised bog habitat across the project sites.

It is also estimated that an extra 100t of CO2 are being sequestered per year as a result of the work, although this is expected to increase in the coming years as vegetation on the sites becomes established.

Restoration took place on raised bog special areas of protection across seven counties in Ireland. These works included the blocking of more than 182km of drainage channels with over 15,000 peat or plastic dams and sluices.

The programme which was an EU LIFE Nature project, co-funded by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), was the largest single peatland restoration project of its kind upon its inception, receiving €5.4 million in funding.

The Minister of State for heritage and electoral reform, Malcolm Noonan commended the work of the project:

“This innovative and exciting project did not simply focus on the restoration of raised bogs, but also on engaging with local communities and stakeholders in developing the restoration plans, to maximise the socio-economic benefits of conservation.”

As well as the restoration of the bogs themselves, a schools outreach project was launched to deliver educational events and encourage students to learn about peatlands, bogs and restoration.

According to Minister Noonan, the project worked with these communities to create visitor facilities and amenities around the sites where the restoration works took place.

Looped walking routes, boardwalks and recreational areas were established on a number of them including the Carrownagappul Bog in Mountbellew, Co. Galway, where “the bog has been rechristened as Galway’s Living Bog”.

According to Birdwatch Ireland, surveys it conducted show that the restoration of certain bogs in both Galway and Offaly almost immediately impacted the number of bird species, with increased numbers returning there following the rewetting.

The project officially ends with a two-day conference allowing delegates to experience the project team’s work on both of these sites.