Dr Catherine A. Farrell, pictured below right, leader of the Peatlands Gathering 2021 organising committee, writes:
The Peatlands Gathering 2021 grew out of a series of conversations between peatland researchers and community interest groups over the course of winter and spring 2021, sparked by the dawn of the UN Decade on Restoration 2021-2030 and the impending COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.
We’re mid-way through our preparations now, busy building a rich and varied programme which will be of relevance for all interested in peatlands. Keep watching our website for updates and check out our outline programme here, watch for the map of field trips here and register your attendance here (we’re already approaching the 100-attendee mark!). This will be a free online event held on October 7 and 8th, with locally led field trips on Saturday, October 9th (on a peatland near you!). If you would like to organise a local field trip, do get in touch and we can add it to our peatland map.
Ireland is a global hotspot for peatlands; with over 20% of the national territory covered by peatland or peat soils. Often referred to as the bog, these valuable ecosystems form a significant part of the Irish socio-cultural landscape. Healthy, living peatlands are wetlands, characterised by complex interactions between three main factors: water, biodiversity and peat itself. Tweak one of these components and we effect change, making them more vulnerable to natural hazards and climate change at the same time.
Recognising the importance of Irish peatlands in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, we are honoured to have Minister Malcolm Noonan, Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, pictured below left, launching our event on October 7, while Minister Pippa Hackett, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, pictured below middle, will join our round table discussions alongside others on October 8th. Both Ministers are champions for peatlands and people, reflecting their appreciation of cultural and natural heritage, alongside the need to support local communities.
As Ireland develops ambitious targets towards climate action and biodiversity loss, it is time to gather our thoughts and foster a new beginning for peatlands. Over the course of the Peatlands Gathering 2021, we will present work and views in relation to peatlands as archaeological reserves, as significant hotspots and sanctuaries for wild species, as water storage and flow regulators, as sources of domestic fuel, as spaces for grazing animals and planting commercial forests, as places for erecting wind turbines, as places of recreation and sources of inspiration but also, significantly, as spaces that require understanding in terms of their role in our combined efforts in the face of climate change.
The sea change in our understanding of peatlands has brought about significant milestone events in recent years including the cessation of industrial peat extraction across the midlands bogs, with questioning as to the afforestation of peat soils and their drainage for agricultural purposes. Moreover, issues around renewables have been prominently in the news, as ambitious efforts to de-carbonise energy production has had knock-on negative consequences for peatlands. Three major bog slides in 2020 caused significant concern as to how climate change might further impact on the vulnerability and stability of peatlands, especially when pressures from forestry, renewables and intensification of farming continue from all sides. All these issues and questions affect the livelihoods of people who have relied on peatlands as a source of income, calling into focus the broader issue of Just Transition.
Every bog is different and understanding their past is key to their restoration and our future. We will collate the key messages from the Peatlands Gathering 2021and present them at the Peatlands Pavilion to be convened at the COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.
Make sure your views are represented and join us – we look forward to sharing with you.
Follow us on Twitter @PeatlandsG