, Volume 11, Issue 1-2, pp 21-35

Rehabilitation of industrial cutaway Atlantic blanket bog in County Mayo, North-West Ireland

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Abstract

Bord na Móna (the Irish PeatDevelopment Corporation) began peatextraction at Bellacorick, in County Mayo,in the north-west of Ireland in 1961. Thepeat production area comprised 8000 ha ofAtlantic blanket bog. To date, about 25%of the area has been taken out ofproduction as the peat resources wereexhausted. The cutaway landscape isheterogeneous, with some intact bogremnants among gravel hills bared throughpeat erosion, shallow acid highly-humifiedpeat deposits overlying relatively levelglacial till, and occasional pockets ofmineral-enriched peat in depressions. Theaims of the work described here are (a) toprovide a baseline vegetation survey of thecutaway, (b) to test potential managementtools for accelerating re-vegetation, and(c) to promote the re-establishment ofpeatland characteristics where possible.Thirteen plant communities were recorded onthe cutaway bog at Bellacorick. Extensiveareas of cutaway are colonised by Juncus effusus. Peatland communities havedeveloped where the drainage of cutaway hasbeen impeded and the water-table remains ator above the surface. Remnants of intactAtlantic blanket bog within the productionarea provide a local source of propagulesfor colonisation of adjacent bare cutaway.They also constitute locations for plantswith restricted distributions within theproduction area.Experimental plots were used to show thepositive impacts of (a) re-wetting ofcutaway surfaces in promoting thecolonisation and spread of Sphagnum,and (b) ridging of exposed gravel till thatprovides waterlogged and sheltered furrowsin which accelerated plant colonisationtakes place.A management plan is currently beingdevised for the rehabilitation of theBellacorick cutaway. Bog remnants should bemaintained as an essential part ofrehabilitation management. Rehabilitationwill include restoration of peat-formingconditions facilitated by waterlogging,which has been shown in experimental trialsto be enhanced by dam construction,infilling of drains and surface ridging. AtBellacorick, it is evident that, with time,peat-forming conditions can be restoredwith minimal management and economic cost.