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Blanket Bog Restoration in Ireland  
Coillte, Government Buildings, Cranmore Road, Sligo  |  Email:  |  Tel: +353 (0)71 9162663  
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Introduction to the Active Blanket
Bog Restoration Project
  Intact blanket bog at Owenboy, Co. Mayo
  Intact blanket bog at
Owenboy, Co. Mayo
The peatlands of the West of Ireland are among the most important intact areas of active blanket bog found in Europe. For a description of blanket bog, see "What is blanket bog?". The term "active" here refers to blanket bog that is still peat-forming or still growing. Because its value as wildlife habitat is now internationally recognised, blanket bog is listed for protection on Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive, which means that EU member states must protect the best representative examples of blanket bog habitat in Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).

Since 1997 approximately 135,140 ha of active blanket bog have been proposed as candidate Special Areas of Conservation [SAC] in Ireland. These proposed SAC Blanket Bog sites are located mainly along the Atlantic Seaboard counties of Ireland, especially Counties Mayo and Galway.

Vegetation monitoring in action  
Vegetation monitoring in action  
In the past, efforts have been made to make more use of blanket bogs. Forestry was seen as a possible landuse that would boost the local economy in remote areas where blanket bog cover is extensive. Conifer species such as Sitka spruce and lodgepole pine were planted onto bog that had been drained and fertilised in order to promote tree growth. In some instances, particularly on very wet bogs, these efforts to establish commercial forestry failed as the trees did not grow well. Nowadays, with environmental issues becoming increasingly important, Coillte takes the view that some of these bog plantations should be converted back to wild, open bog for the benefit of biodiversity. This project aims to achieve the restoration of blanket bog at selected sites owned by Coillte. Since the best examples of Ireland's bogs are proposed for nature conservation in Special Areas of Conservation by The National Parks and Wildlife Service, Coillte has undertaken this project to restore the afforested blanket bog in the SAC land in its ownership. In this project there are 14 sites covering 1212.3 ha within or adjoining candidate SACs on the Coillte estate. The sites consist of unplanted, or partially/wholly afforested blanket bog/heath habitat.

Most of the project sites are located in north Mayo, where the full range of blanket bog types occur from lowland to mountain blanket bog. Most of the bog here also lies within sensitive river catchments, i.e. where water quality if very high, and so protection of watercourses is an important consideration. Elsewhere, the sites are representative of afforested peatlands around the country. Five of these sites, namely Emlaghdauroe, Eskeragh, Slieve Blooms, Croaghonagh and Dromalonhurt, have been selected as project demonstration sites. These will be the focus of a public awareness programme over a four-year period and beyond.

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For the last 40 years or so the blanket boglands of Ireland have been extensively altered by human landuse. Afforestation, grazing and other landuses have resulted in degradation and drying out of the habitat. The main focus of this project is to reverse the degradation of blanket bog.

The problems to be addressed, are:
  Bog bean growing in a pool
  Bog bean growing in a pool
  • Uncontrolled access on open bog areas by sheep, which has lead to overgrazing
  • Forest drains on the open bogs have lowered the natural water levels
  • Forestry-related activities, including drainage, has reduced the area of active blanket bog habitat
  • Conifer species are regenerating onto the open bog SACs from adjoining conifer plantations
  This project will reverse these processes and over time will create a high quality area of active blanket bog by:
  • Fencing to protect 718.6 hectares of open blanket bog from overgrazing in the future
  • Drain-blocking in order to restore the high watertable which is necessary for blanket bog growth
  • The felling/removal of some 494 hectares of conifer plantation in order to increase the blanket bog area
  • The felling of naturally regenerated conifers from the open bogs.

Bog Cotton  
Bog Cotton  
Bog restoration techniques on afforested peatland pioneered in the LIFE funded "The Border Mires Active Blanket Bog Rehabilitation Project" (UK) will be developed on in this project. Links with other LIFE funded projects, with an emphasis on tree clearance, have also been made. This LIFE funded restoration project will build on conservation management plans for the sites, the development of which by The National Parks and Wildlife was previously supported by EU LIFE funding.

At the end of this project, it is expected that Coillte will have achieved a significant amount of blanket bog restoration. Funding from LIFE-Nature will demonstrate that the restoration of suitable blanket bog sites is one of the management options on afforested peatlands.
Click here to view all our project sites throughout Ireland
Click here to view all our demonstration sites in Ireland
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Natura 2000 Network - A European ecological network Coillte - The Irish Forestry Company LIFE III - The Financial Instrument for the Environment