INCASE Project's Tale of Two Peatland Papers
“It was the best of peatlands, it was the worst of peatlands, it was the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it was the Peatlands Gathering 2021, it was a Peatland Pavilion, it was a grand soft (bog) day...” Catherine Farrell, 2022.
Small patches of relatively intact blanket bog remain in the upper catchment of the Dargle. Photo: Dr Guaduneth Chico @guaduneth
Peatlands are in the news, for lots of reasons. Long cited as the Cinderella habitat, in past times peatlands have been sidelined, while others (think forests) shone in the public limelight – the cool kids that did stuff for the climate. But as we move into the critical age of action for sustaining human living conditions on Earth, peatlands are (and rightly so) now coming front and centre to the climate and biodiversity action debates. This is largely due to the increased awareness and understanding of the role they play in regulating climate, regulating and purifying water flows, as well as their role in supporting biodiversity and livelihoods in rural areas.
In 2021, we had the widely anticipated COP26 and the first year of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to provide a platform to drive awareness campaigns about peatlands. How did we in Ireland respond? Well, first up was the Peatlands Gathering 2021 which helped to energise and excite action for peatlands in Ireland by bringing an array of interests together to a common platform for discussion and, indeed, celebration. We presented the key messages at COP26, ‘in’ the hugely successful UNEP and IUCN UK (and others)-led Peatlands Pavilion. All presentations from these events are freely available online and serve as an excellent resource for peatland specialists, peatland enthusiasts and indeed the lesser spotted, peatland policymakers.
We had a great turn out for the Peatlands Gathering 2021 presentation at COP26 - thanks to Minister Noonan and Minister Hackett for representing us in person at related events.
For our own part, working on the EPA Research-funded INCASE project we have been busy since 2019 applying the Ecosystem Accounting module of the UN System of Environmental-Economic Accounting at catchment scale – SEEA EA for short! - to test how this can support integrated decision making for nature and economy. It made sense to make the most of my own expertise and experience in peatlands to really test the SEEA EA and see how we could apply it to peatlands and answer relevant and pertinent questions like:
Do we have enough data to peatland ecosystem accounts?
How do we develop peatland ecosystem accounts at catchment or other scales?
Can we use the SEEA EA to help guide and implement peatland restoration targets at a catchment / national scale?
And so, we set off to test ecosystem and broader natural capital accounting approaches to come up with some useful guidance for peatland restoration in Ireland. Having spent most of summer 2021analysing the data available and figuring it out, we road-tested our ideas at the ESP and SER conferences in June 2021 and of course, also at the Peatlands Gathering 2021 event. In our blog on the INCASE site, we describe our key findings and encourage you to visit our peatland-related peer reviewed publications to check out the supporting maps and tables and supplementary information.
Before you read one word more, allow us to extend our thanks to all who helped us build information through engaging across the work of INCASE and in particular those who inputted from our various catchment workshops. This work would not have seen the light of day without your help.
PAPER 1: Developing peatland ecosystem accounts to guide targets for restoration (stocks assessment)
Full text here: One Ecosystem 6: e76838. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.6.e76838
PAPER 2: Applying ecosystem accounting to develop a risk register for peatlands and inform restoration targets at catchment scale: a case study from the European region (flows assessment)
Full text here: Restoration Ecology https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/rec.13632
Please read Dr Catherine Farrell's key messages from both papers summarised in her blog on the INCASE website HERE.