Blocking drains will 'rewet' bogs, allowing them to flourish once again
Bord na Móna has begun the process that will have a major change on the landscape of much of Kildare over the coming decade.
The company has started to rehabilitate bogs by blocking drains and rewetting them.
And while they have started in Tipperary and Longford, they will eventually get to the Kildare bogs as the company moves towards its deadline of 2030 for the end of peat harvesting.
The company has explained that new machines have been deployed on Bord na Móna lands as part of a plan to rewet thousands of hectares of bogs across the country.
The machines are used to block decades old drains on the bogs causing them to rewet and start growing again. That perhaps will come as a surprise to many former and current Bord na Móna workers who spent much of their working lives trying to achieve the opposite!
And the machines are being described as “massive bog defibrillators” by the company, given the reviving effect they have on the bogs. Rewetting promotes carbon capture, biodiversity and habitats for native species, they say.
The two machines, which have been specifically engineered for bog work, cost over €100,000 and have been deployed in the past week on locations in Longford and Tipperary.
Bord na Móna Ecologist David Fallon explained that the machines give the bogs “the push they need to start living again”. Blocking the drains, he explained, raises the water levels. “Once the bog is wet the live mosses which build the bog will return in force.
Block drains prevents the bogs from losing moisture and, it is hoped, will revive them
“When the mosses are active again the bog can return to being a carbon sink. We hear a lot about the effectiveness of rainforests in this regard but Irish bogs can be just as effective in drawing down and storing carbon.”
The rehabilitated bogs also have the immediate benefit of providing new habitats for rare Irish flora and fauna. “We have 162 hectares of bog here that once rewetted, will become a habitat for a number of precious species including the Curlew,” Mr Fallon hoped.
A spokesperson for Bord na Móna outlined how the company has committed to ceasing peat harvesting by 2030 and that work will cease on every bog in Kildare at various times over the next 12 years. The effect of rewetting the bogs will be different from site to site, depending on the scale of harvesting that was carried out at each.
In cases where they were simply drained, the result should be quite quick with the moss re-establishing itself as a living bog with all sorts of interesting flora and fauna.
Bogs which were heavily harvested, to the point where they are now below the level of surrounding rivers, will revert back to lakes, like they were just after the last ice age, the spokesperson explained. Other bogs, like the one in Mount Lucas, just inside the Offaly border, will see scrub or birch trees re-establishing themselves.
Bord na Móna announced that it has progressed the rehabilitation of over 700 hectares of cutaway bog in the past year. This adds to the 15,000 hectares of bog already rehabilitated. The company has outlined a target of at least 10,000 hectares to be rehabilitated in the coming decade.
In 2015 Bord na Móna announced it was transitioning towards what is described as a more sustainable business model and that it will cease harvesting peat for energy completely by 2030.