- Peatlands are ancient habitats where peat or ‘turf’ is formed. Due to waterlogged conditions, there is a shortage of oxygen. This prevents microorganisms such as bacteria & fungi decomposing dead organic matter. Therefore, the material accumulates, resulting in the gradual formation of peat.
- Peatlands cover an area of approximately 515,000 km2 in Europe and Northern Ireland contains a large proportion of this habitat.
- Bogs differ from fens as they receive their water source solely from precipitation that falls on the surface with no contribution from drainage water.
- Until the beginning of the 19th century, peatlands were extensive habitats in Ireland, but have declined dramatically in the last 100 years. They are sensitive to human activities such as peat-cutting for domestic fuel, draining, burning, over-grazing, afforestation, pollution & urban expansion. It is expected that peatlands will continue to decline as a result of drainage and/or lowering of groundwater tables.
- Bogs are an extremely important habitat in terms of biodiversity. They support a range of highly specialised plant & animal species that have adapted to survive in the harsh conditions. Although the wet conditions prevent the presence of certain animals, they are ideal for those with an aquatic life cycle phase (peatlandsni, 2004).
- Bogs are additionally an ‘unparallel record of our past’ (IPCC) & an essential carbon store as the accumulated dead plant material removes carbon from the atmosphere, forming peat which is rich in fossil carbon. By draining & destructing raised bogs, the stored carbon is returned to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide & methane).
- The Countryside Survey (2007) estimated that the area of the Bog Broad Habitat in the UK is 2.4million ha, which represents 9.7% of the land area. The majority of Bog is found in Scotland, covering 25.6% of the land area, which is followed by NI, in which Bog covers 11.4% (161,000 ha) of the land area. This was a slight decrease from 11.6% (164,000 ha) land area in 1998.
Further information: Countryside Survey – Results 2007
- Peatlands are of high international importance. The ‘Habitats Directive’ lists the following as Priority Habitats:
– Blanket Bogs
– Raised Bogs