Quality of peatlands ’cause of concern’ – IPCC

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) is examining the quality of over 1,000 peatlands of conservation importance in Ireland.

According to Paula Farrell, IPCC’s campaign officer, the findings show that the quality of peatlands has “deteriorated substantially, with a lack of resilience to the impacts of climate change and disrupted weather patterns” playing a large contribution.

They have undertaken the review of Irish peatlands to inform a ‘Peatlands and Climate Change Action Plan 2021-2030’, which is due to be released later this year.

Peatlands and climate go ‘hand in hand’

According to Farrell, peatlands and climate “go hand in hand”.

“Climate has influenced the formation of bogs for thousands of years, creating the perfect conditions for peat accumulation in the lake basins or poorly drained soils,” she explained.

“Likewise, peatlands can influence current and future climate. Peatlands are a carbon sink with Irish bogs storing carbon annually.”

Farrell said this has been happening for 10,000 years, resulting in “57,402t of carbon” being stored in the peat each year.

“Draining bogs lowers the water table that allowed the carbon to be sequestered in the first place, and switches on a decomposition process that releases the stored carbon and other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Once the natural carbon cycle is undermined in peatlands, they become a net source of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

The IPCC has expressed concern for blanket bogs in the west of Ireland, saying that the bogs are “being fragmented by forest plantations, turf-cutting and poorly sited wind farms”.

Farrell also added that “raised bogs are being physically removed from the landscape through turf-cutting for domestic use and for the production of horticultural peat”. 

The IPCC carried out research into the threats of 1,182 peatland sites listed within its database.

In its review, the IPCC says it has recorded that “turf-cutting has impacted 32.91% of peatland areas and 35.7% have been impacted by drainage, with 53 out of 89 blanket bog special areas of conservation listed in our database impacted by turf-cutting”.

According to the report, only 8.38% of all the listed sites have undergone any restoration works. 

Concluding, Farrell said: “We really need to work together to restore our peatlands before it is too late.”

The review of the quality of Irish peatlands is due to be released later this year.