Wetlands: What is their role in carbon emissions?

Over 80,000ha under Managed Wetlands in Ireland
Wetlands: What is their role in carbon emissions?

The value of wetlands to climate action cannot be understated. File Picture. 

Managed Wetlands are currently a net source of emissions in Ireland and a number of factors that support removal of emissions from them include:

  • A reduction in peat extraction activity, for example, through the recent cessation of peat harvesting by Bord Na Móna;
  • The restoration and rehabilitation activities planned under the Bord na Móna Enhanced Decommissioning, Rehabilitation and Restoration Scheme.

This is according to the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan who spoke on the matter recently following a parliamentary question submitted by Deputy Bernard Durkan.

Mr Durkan asked the Minister what the total area in hectares of wetland - including lakes and rivers - throughout the country was, and the extent to which their existence contributed to carbon reduction.


Minister Ryan said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Inventory Report 2020 stated that the term Wetlands, as applied to Ireland, referred to Unmanaged Wetlands and Managed Wetlands - areas drained for the purpose of commercial exploitation and harvesting of peat for energy and horticultural products.

In Ireland 80,206ha remain under Managed Wetlands while Unmanaged Wetlands include 1,145,591ha and comprise peatlands not commercially exploited including inland marshes, salt marshes, moors and heathland, and intertidal flats.

“Lakes and rivers are not included in emission/removal estimates as per international reporting guidelines,” the Minister added.

“Emissions and removals in national inventories are only included for anthropogenic activities.

“The total proportion of land use reported for Managed Wetlands in 2018 was 1.1% representing emissions of 1,655.88 kt CO2eq for the year 2018.” 

Wetlands Surveys Ireland 

Meanwhile, Wetland Surveys Ireland says Wetland is the collective term for ecosystems (habitats and their associated species) whose formation has been dominated by water, and whose processes and characteristics are largely controlled by water.

“A wetland is a place that has been wet enough for a long enough time to develop specially adapted vegetation and other organisms.

“They occur where the water table is at or near the surface of the land, or where the land is covered by a layer of shallow water, for some or all of the year.” The 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance defines wetland as:

Areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.

The five major wetland types that are generally recognised include:

  • Marine (coastal wetlands including coastal lagoons, rocky shores, and coral reefs);
  • Estuarine (including deltas, tidal marshes, and mangrove swamps);
  • Lacustrine (wetlands associated with lakes);
  • Riverine (wetlands along rivers and streams);
  • Palustrine (marshy – wet grassland, marshes, swamps and bogs).

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