Ireland’s biodiversity-rich peatlands are to be the focus of a new multi-million climate action project to be led by NUI Galway.
The European Commission has allocated €10m to the initiative, which aims to highlight the power of peatlands to bring about significant climate action.
The seven-year EU Peatlands and People project is expected to significantly contribute to the long-term implementation of Ireland’s Climate Action Plan.
It will educate people in Ireland and the EU about the benefits of peatlands restoration and raise awareness of the power of peatlands to bring about positive climate action.
The project will see the establishment of a dedicated Peatlands Knowledge Centre of Excellence in Ireland that will explore and carry out best practices in peatland restoration and rehabilitation.
Other elements of the initiative involve the establishment of Just Transition Accelerator programme, which will focus on the establishment of low-carbon and circular economies to support the midlands region economically by helping develop new sustainable products, services and enterprises.
Meanwhile, an immersive People’s Discovery Attraction will be located in the midlands to create more public awareness of the importance of climate action and peatlands, which cover a considerable area in Ireland — estimated at about 15% — and have enormous environmental, cultural archaeological value.
Ireland’s bogs have suffered extensively from the impact of everything from turf-cutting and overgrazing to urban development, dumping, and wind-farms.
Ireland is also home to around eight per cent of the world’s blanket bogs which are protected under International and EU legislation.
Peatlands form one of the most important natural ecosystems in the world, playing home to rare plants and animals as well as boasting huge soil diversity.
They are inhabited by specialised organisms which live only on bogs as well as vegetation, which has also specifically adapted to this acidic and wet environment. Over the years our peatlands have also proved to be of great archaeological value.
A special engagement day for all stakeholders, will be organised to explore the details of the project once the current Covid-19 restrictions ease.
The new project, which is being co-ordinated by Bord na Móna, together with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National University of Ireland in Galway and ERINN Innovation Ltd, with additional co-financing from Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, will work with peatlands in Ireland’s midlands and the communities around them to deliver capacity and support related to a low-carbon economy.
The restoration and rehabilitation of Ireland’s peatlands is a critically important aspect of our response to the climate and biodiversity emergency, according to Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan.
Mr Noonan pointed out that when these are in a healthy condition, these unique and precious habitats are home to some of Ireland’s most threatened species.
Not only that, he said, Ireland’s peatlands were among our best lines of defence against climate change: sequestering and storing carbon, reducing the impact of floods and filtering water.
“They are also places where people can experience the wonder of nature and nourish the deep connections that inspire us to protect it,” he said.