2023 Awards Winner’s Spotlight: Best Practice Small-Scale Nature Conservation

Shanakyle Bog Restoration and Habitat Enhancement Project EIP

Shanakyle Bog Restoration Group

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Shanakyle Bog Restoration and Habitat Enhancement Project EIP (European Innovation Partnership) is an agrienvironmental project that is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s (DAFM) locally-led EIP scheme. This is the first raised bog restoration and rewetting project to be carried out in County Clare, Ireland. Shanakyle Bog Restoration Group was awarded funding in May 2021 to carry out a number of conservation actions including:

  • rewetting and restoration work of 30 acres of raised bog habitat;
  • management of 10 acres of grassland for wildflower meadow creation;
  • creation of a wildlife pond and stone hibernaculum for smooth newt;
  • installation of over 30 bird nest boxes for endangered and threatened species for specialist groups (including red and amber listed bird species of conservation concern);
  • installation of over 20 bat roost boxes on mature oak treelines and bog woodland;
  • removal of problematic invasive species;
  • installing wildlife signage and creation of a nature trail.

The work commenced in August 2021 and was completed in September 2022.

The restoration and rewetting of degraded peatland habitats has the primary objective of creating favourable baseline conditions for the establishment of Sphagnum mosses (peat forming mosses); and the recovery of the EU Annex I habitat ‘active raised bog (7110)’. Currently, there is <1% of active raised bog remaining in Ireland due to threats and pressures associated with peat extraction and drainage and the national conservation status of the habitat is assessed as ‘bad’. Rewetting work involved installing a network of peat dams, peat bunds and overflow pipes for Sphagnum development. The project has added significance due to the limited geographic range of active raised bog in the west of Ireland and County Clare in particular. Monitoring data of permanent quadrats was carried out to assess Sphagnum recovery (peat forming mosses) of rewetted bog pools with regenerating peat forming mosses confirmed almost one year post-restoration.

A wildlife pond and stone hibernaculum were constructed to provide a wildlife refuge for amphibians, damselflies, dragonflies and wetland plants; and now supports marginal wetland vegetation (Typha latifolia and Glyceria fluitans) and several species of invertebrates including pond skaters and damselflies. The installation of over 30 bird next boxes and over 20 bat roost boxes for specialist species has served as a biodiversity enhancement feature for birds of conservation concern and five species of bat confirmed onsite. The project site currently supports five red listed bird species of conservation concern in Ireland (snipe, meadow pipit, kestrel, barn owl and woodcock).

One of the main benefits of restoring and rewetting 30 acres (12 ha) of raised and cutover bog is managing the peatland habitats as a carbon sink and to restore the bog hydrology and hydrochemistry to function as active raised bog habitat once more; and to enhance the peatland ecosystem for specialised groups including recyclers, decomposers and xeromorphic plants. The restoration of peatland habitats has also provided a range of ecosystem services such as improving water quality of surrounding watercourses by blocking drains and intercepting silt run-off from open drains; water retention to alleviate flooding in the sub-catchment (on a local scale) by reducing stormwater run-off from the bog and increase water retention; a wildlife refuge and to provide an education resource for third level institutions and local interest groups. In addition to providing a wildlife refuge, the project is having knock on positive effects for threatened and endangered bird species of conservation concern. The successful eradication of Rhododendron has removed threats and pressures that could otherwise disrupt natural processes and functions of healthy peatland ecosystems.

This is the first raised bog restoration project to be carried out in County Clare and one of only a handful of peatland restoration projects to be carried out on privately owned lands in Ireland. Thirty acres of degraded raised bog is now actively transitioning to peat forming ‘active raised bog’. This is a flagship project which has set a precedent for nature conservation in County Clare and nearby County Limerick. In delivering this project Shanakyle Bog Restoration Group has partnered with the Irish Wildlife Trust, National Parks and Wildlife Service, BirdWatch Ireland, Irish Farmers Association; University of Limerick and Limerick School of Art and Design.

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