Welcome to the Scientific Basis for Raised Bog Conservation in Ireland Study Website

The Scientific Basis for Raised Bog Conservation in Ireland Study will inform the National Peatlands Strategy and National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan which are being developed  to give direction to Ireland’s approach to peatland management, including bog conservation and restoration, over the coming decades.

Raised bogs are extremely rare in global terms  and are sites of European and international importance. Active raised bog, or bog that is continuing to lay down peat, is a priority habitat under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive and a significant portion of the world’s remaining active raised bog can be found in Ireland. Successive governments have recognised the importance of this resouce environmentally, socially and culturally and have committed to its protection and restoration, through designations under national legislation (the Wildlife Amendment Act) and under European legislation (the EU Habitats Directive).

Between 1997 and 2002, Ireland nominated a total of 53 raised bog sites for designation as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive. Ireland is obligated to protect, manage and restore these sites to ensure they achieve their objectives in relation to conservation status.In addition, 75 raised bogs were designated as Natural Heritage Areas (NHAs) in 2004 under the Wildlife Amendment Act and are legally protcted from damage.

Ireland’s peatlands have historically been used for a variety of purposes including domestic and commercial turf cutting, agriculture and forestry. These uses are important socially and economically but are the principle causes of a general deterioration of these sites that has been observed over recent years.  This has included a significant decrease in the area of active bog in most of these sites and the loss of smaller areas of degraded bog capable of restoration. A key part of Ireland’s natural heritage, and a unique ecological asset, lie within these 53 sites and it is in danger of disappearance. Legal proceedings have been brought by the European Commission and adverse judgements made by the European Court of Justice as a result of the deterioration. The provision of the necessary protective measures is now urgent.

The Scientific Basis for Raised Bog Conservation in Ireland Study will provide input to the development of the National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan and site-specific restoration plans. The plans will describe how the 53 raised bog SACs will be managed into the future and will be developed in full consultation with stakeholders, including bog owners and users and surrounding land owners. They will give clarity and confidence to all parties in regard to how Ireland will protect these sites and meet its obligations relating to the protection of these sites.

It is recognised that the National Raised Bog SAC Management Plan is likely to show a significant loss of active raised bog since these sites were designated.  It may not be possible to wholly restore the area lost to date by converting degraded bog back to active bog on the SACs alone and so compensatory habitat may need to be considered.  This is likely to require a review of a sub-set of NHAs or other bog areas to find potentially suitable compensation sites.  The review of such sites will also be necessary to identify sites where turf cutting activities can take place in order to facilitate relocation of turf cutting activity away from the 53 SAC sites.