Dam those Drains for Peat’s Sake

CANN is tackling global climate change by re-wetting local bogs across Northern Ireland. Garry Bog, Peatlands Park and Moneygal Bog are targets for the next tranche of work this autumn. Local action for global benefit.

First to be tackled is Moneygal near Castlederg and next week heavy machinery will move onto the bog to block old drains and help to re-wet this internationally important habitat so that it starts to function as an actively growing bog again. The rejuvenated bog will be rich in biodiversity and will also capture and keep carbon out of the atmosphere helping Northern Ireland do its bit towards national climate change obligations.

“Years ago, Moneygal Bog was drained so that it could be cut for turf and planted with conifers and those drains have continued to carry water off the site causing it to slowly dry out. Now the CANN project  has allowed us to actively restore this bog and many others across Northern Ireland, Ireland and Western Scotland,” said Simon Gray from  Ulster Wildlife

Moneygal Bog, which is a Special Area of Conservation and National Nature Reserve, is one of eight raised bogs across Northern Ireland included in the project.

“Although protected, all these bogs are in poor condition, mostly because they have dried out and the important peat-building Sphagnum mosses cannot grow. Blocking drains is the quickest and most effective way of reversing that trend,” Simon continued.

“We work with hydrologists at the RPS Group who pinpoint exactly where to block drains to get the most impact. We monitor the water table monthly and will keep a watching eye on levels after the drains have been blocked.

“We need the water to be within 10 cm of the surface for 90% of the year and blocking the drains is the only way this will happen. A healthy wet bog is excellent at capturing carbon and bog restoration is a key tool in our work to tackle climate change.

Ulster Wildlife has also removed over 10ha of invasive conifers and scrub from the bog this year. The re-wetting will help stop further invasion.

Moneygal Bog is owned by the Northern Ireland Forest Service. Ciaran Cassidy, Forest Stewardship Officer, said:

“We are delighted to see active conservation on this very important site and have worked closely with Ulster Wildlife and the CANN project to allow this to happen.”


Wet and Wonderful at Cranny Bogs

A challenging start was made to rewetting Cranny Bogs last week (27th January), as heavy machinery moved in to begin the process of installing hundreds of dams across the site to block the flow of water out of the Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The site covers 78ha on three bogs, Killymoonan, Fallaghearn and Cavan and is located just outside Fintona in County Tyrone.

The original plan was for the digger to start work on one of the drier areas of the bog. However, the recent snowmelt meant that the ground was too wet. This meant that there was a real danger of damaging the site or even losing the digger into the bog! The solution was a suite of bog mats which the digger driver used as a pathway, inching his way across the site, moving the mats from behind the digger, swinging them around and laying them in front as he travelled.

Simon Gray,  a technical officer with Ulster Wildlife, one of the partners in the CANN project, said:

“the ground was rippling up and down like jelly every time the digger moved.”

He then explained the skilled job of creating the dams:

“The contractor digs an anchor point or key out of the drain into the peat, then digs a borrow pit out of denser peat, using this stronger material to pile up a dam in the ditch, placing a layer of vegetation or “scraw” on top.”

“Although the dam sits proud of the site initially this will soon settle,” he continued.

Ulster Wildlife is aiming to install hundreds of dams across all the CANN raised bogs, over 300 at Cranny alone. This will ultimately have a substantial positive impact on the site, raising the water table which will allow sphagnum and other bog flora to survive during the summer and ultimately to begin actively forming peat again. The open water will also provide space for invertebrates such as dragonflies and damselflies, adding colour and life to the bog and supporting the whole food chain.

After only one week, the impact on the site could already be seen. The first dams built had half a meter of water built up behind them, and some had begun to spill over the surrounding area. Just what the project wanted to see. This is the start of a long process, but the impacts will be massive and long-lasting with Cranny Bogs playing an active role in locking carbon away and providing a valuable habitat for our biodiversity


see the work in action on our Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39_LV1B05q8


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