A vital part of the Collaborative Action for the Natura Network (CANN) project, is scientific research. So far, programme scientists have been surveying for breeding birds, checking water-table depths and setting up ammonia monitoring, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant all work had to stop.
CANN, which is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), depends on accurate science to understand the impact of actions and to plan further effective schemes to improve the conservation value of the sites and safeguard this precious habitat for many years to come.
As soon as Government eased restrictions on work, CANN scientists carried out thorough risk assessments to allow this important survey work to resume. Observing very strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines, they are now getting back to work on some isolated bogs and wetlands. Permissions for work have been obtained from all landowners and managers, private and public.
The project had planned to start monitoring for passive ammonia, which is deposited from the air on our wetlands, before the lock-down. But researchers have had to wait till this week to start work at Peatlands Park near Dungannon and some other raised bogs in Counties Tyrone, Derry, Antrim and Down to collect ammonia data for analysis. The data will be compared to what was previously modelled using computers. Ammonia is linked to COPD in humans but is also very bad for the health of our wetland lungs, our bogs, that breathe out oxygen and breathe in and capture carbon dioxide.
Other scientific research that is restarting includes water quality sampling on Lough Arrow in Sligo/Roscommon and investigating thermal stratification of the water in the Magheraveely-Kilroosky lake cluster in Fermanagh and Monaghan.
All work that is being carried out on CANN sites is subject to rigorous risk assessment and full health and safety audit carried out by qualified H&S practitioners. All the scientists will be working alone when in the field and will be fully compliant to social distancing and hygiene requirements. No scientists who have personal interactions with vulnerable or shielded individuals will be undertaking this work. The scientists are keen to safely resume fieldwork as this is such a crucial period for this monitoring. The work of the scientists will also be assessed on an on-going and regular basis in light of any change to Covid19 regulations and guidance.