Restored bogs could solve some of our flooding problems

AS experts and government departments seek ways to resolve our flood problems, they might also take a look at what some of our fellow Celts are doing. Restored bogs, acting as a sort of sponge, can provide part of the solution.

Wildlife charity Buglife Scotland has built 1,000 dams in its ambitious Slamannan bog restoration project, which is helping to repair damaged, raised bogs in central Scotland.

One year into the project, the dams have been installed across more than 200 hectares of bog and around 20 acres of invasive conifers and scrub have been cleared at Fannyside Muir, near Cumbernauld.

More than 80% of Scotland’s bogs have been lost or damaged in the last 200 years, mainly by drainage, agriculture, forestry and commercial peat extraction. Drainage of upland bogs and peatlands speeds the flow of rainwater into rivers, thus greatly increasing the risk of downstream flooding following storms.

Last month, the dammed areas of Fannyside Muir captured more than 150 million litres of rainwater. Undamaged bogs also act as enormous carbon sinks. They make up just three per cent of global surface area, but hold more carbon than the world’s entire forestry, according to Buglife Scotland’s conservation officer Dr Scott Shanks.

“Unfortunately, they’re also very vulnerable. If bogs are drained, huge amounts of CO2 and greenhouse gases are released from the peat. Restoring these unique habitats by rewetting damaged bogs prevents the release of greenhouse gases and encourages the growth of peat-forming sphagnum mosses which locks up more carbon,” he adds.

Healthy bogs also provide a unique habitat for rare wildlife and plants, including birds such as short-eared owls and skylarks, as well as butterflies and ladybirds.

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), meanwhile, is calling on politicians to find ‘’effective solutions’’ to the problem of extreme flooding. It says solutions can be found in nature, particularly through the restoration of wetlands, bogs and native woodlands. It claims dredging of rivers is not a solution to extreme flooding.

IWT Campaigns Officer Pádraic Fogarty claims certain politicians and farming leaders are fixated on river dredging.

“The problems we have today are exacerbated by the historic drainage of river catchments, infilling of wetlands and removal of bogs,’’ he says. “It is more than ironic that these are the same people who want to do nothing to halt the march of greenhouse gases from the agribusiness sector.”

He might also have made a call for stricter controls on windfarm construction in upland areas, especially in relation to road building and turbine erection which involve destruction of fragile peatland.


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