President Michael D. Higgins’ paid tribute to organisations and volunteers working to restore bogs and wetlands across Ireland during a visit to Abbeyleix Bog during National Biodiversity Week.
The President was speaking at the launch of the Community Wetlands Strategic Plan at Abbeyleix Manor Hotel on Thursday.
He praised the Community Wetlands Forum and community initiatives across the country for their “active citizenship” in helping to preserve and restore Ireland’s natural heritage.
Wetland ecosystems are some of the most important ecological spaces in the world. Home to such diverse creatures as the dragonfly, the otter and the curlew, Ireland’s wetlands are also uniquely predisposed to allay the effects of climate change.
The world’s peatlands only cover three per cent of the Earth’s land mass, yet contain twice the sequestered carbon of all of the world’s forests combined.
However, since the beginning of the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th Century, we have been losing Europe’s wetlands at an alarming rate.
Carbon is released into the atmosphere when bogs are drained, but this process can be reversed, even on industrial cutaway bogs, with appropriate restoration. The president noted research undertaken by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of its climate change research programme.
“Land that is a source of emissions can be returned to sequestering carbon from the atmosphere,” the President added. “With 20 per cent of Ireland’s land being comprised of peat soils, there is undoubtedly potential to look at the management of such land as just one contribution to climate change mitigation purposes.”
Under the UN convention on biological diversity, Ireland has signed up to important international commitments including a set of global targets for 2020 to avert further biodiversity loss, to promote its restoration and to improve the conservation status of habitats and species.
“It will require a considerable step-up in efforts to halt further losses” said President Higgins. “What is truly inspirational are the local communities that are ‘stepping up’ to help Ireland achieve it.”
“Successful community-led conservation demonstrates how land use can sit in harmony with nature and the needs of its people. It is a platform to share knowledge, ideas and engage with experts,” he said.
The theme for this year’s Biodiversity Week is ‘Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism’ which coincides with 2017 being the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly.
The president is in Longford today to celebrate 200 years since the Royal Canal was opened.