Our bogs are an important part of our national heritage which we should be very proud of and seek to pass on to future generations in good condition.
Biodiversity and Environmental Values
Our bogs are not just of Irish interest. Our mild Atlantic climate has resulted in the widespread development of bogs of different types ranging from the blanket bogs of the west and the mountains to the raised bogs of the midlands. The species vary considerably between the different bog types and occur in combinations not found elsewhere in Europe or the world. The loss of Ireland’s bogs would result in an irreplaceable loss to global biodiversity. Intact bogs, which are actively forming peat, play an important role in combating climate change by removing excess carbon dioxide from the air and placing it into long term storage for thousands of years. They purify water and reduce flooding by their capacity to absorb, hold and slowly release water. Conserving or restoring bogs is a positive action for climate change mitigation, water quality and flood relief.
Traditions and ways of life associated with bogs stretch back beyond folk memory to the very roots of our society. They are an essential element of our cultural heritage, and are important to our understanding of ourselves as a people and a country. Bogs preserve important cultural and scientific information, such as how the surrounding areas were being farmed, and objects, such as trackways and bog bodies, which give us irreplaceable insights into our history. Since the loss of our woodlands several centuries ago and up to recent times they have been the main source of fuel for many rural communities.
The Selection of Bogs for Conservation
Under the 1992 European Habitats Directive the State is required to protect various species and natural habitats, including active raised bog, which are of international importance by designating areas as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs).
For over 20 years, (1980’s to mid 2000’s) the National Parks and Wildlife Service carried out a series national surveys to identify the most important bogs for nature conservation based on scientific criteria such as naturalness, diversity, rarity, the presence of unique features, such as bog woodlands, or the presence of rare species. Not all suitable sites were selected for conservation but only those which would adequately represent the natural range of habitat conditions and species which were found in Ireland. The raised bog type characteristic of the Midlands is the most threatened bog type with less than 1% in a natural state and currently forming peat.
Ireland has a particular responsibility for protecting raised bog habitat as we have a significant proportion of the small surviving remnants of raised bog within Europe. 139 raised bogs have been designated for protection in 53 Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive and 75 Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) under the Wildlife (Amendment) Act, 2000.