National Heritage Week gives our peatlands the spotlight

Published by Asmae Ourkiya on

August 17th, 2018

National heritage week is set to take place in Ireland between 18 – 26 August this year and the bogs of Meath and Kildare will be a highlight of the event.

Funded by the Heritage Council, this week will host a series of events and will kick off with the ‘Hungry Caterpillars’ event.

This event will be held on Sunday 19th of August at the Bog of Allen Nature and will tell the story of the rare and threatened Marsh Fritillary Butterfly and the efforts being made to protect the species nationwide.

Following this, ‘I Heard the Curlew Cry’ will take place on Wednesday 23 August at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre.

This event will highlight the story of the Curlew on Lodge Bog, Co. Kildare and the efforts of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) staff, volunteers and local landowners to help protect the species and help them successfully rear young.

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Photo: Mike Pennington

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Photo: Mike Pennington

On 24 August, the ‘Webs and Wings’ Marsh Fritillary workshop will take place where participants will be trained in the methodology used to monitor Marsh Fritillary larval webs and conduct a habitat condition assessment.

The event will start with lectures at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre followed by a field trip to Lullymore West Bog for a practical demonstration.

The series of events will end with the ‘Summer in the Mossy Bog’ event taking place at Girley Bog in Co. Meath. This is supported by the Meath County Council under their Community Heritage Grant Scheme 2018.

IPCC will lead a walk leaving from Causey Farm, Fordstown, Co. Meath at 2pm. The walk will explore Girley Bog and showcase the Sphagnum moss restoration work underway on the site.

Abbeyleix Bog Photo: Alf Harvey

Abbeyleix Bog Photo: Alf Harvey

The Importance of Peat Bogs

According to the BBC, peat bogs cover nearly two to three per cent of the Earth’s surface and are an important carbon sink containing more locked-away carbon than the Earth’s forests.

Peat bogs provide a unique home for a large number of plants as well as different species. They also provide an important feeding and stopping-off point for native and migrating birds.

Bogs have been exploited for a number of centuries as a source of fuel in Ireland. This resulted in the disappearance of a number of bigs throughout Europe.

Peatlands originally covered more than 17 per cent of the land surface in the Republic of Ireland. Intensification of fuel turf and horticultural peat extraction from the 1940s, however, has depleted peatland areas across Ireland.

An intact peatland will actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it within the peat body, currently estimated to contain more than 75% of soil organic carbon in the country. This function is reversed however when the peatland is damaged, through intensive harvesting.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 23 Mt of soil carbon was lost between 1990 and 2000 through industrial peat extraction.

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Asmae Ourkiya

Asmae is a first year PhD candidate from Morocco, majoring in Ecocriticism at Mary Immaculate College, Co Limerick. She has a strong interest in renewable energy as well as environmental justice and ecofeminism. She is passionate about writing and enjoys investigating environmental issues.