Northern Ireland

Co Tyrone bog to be transformed in first-of-its-kind peatland restoration

Haughey’s Bog (Ulster Wildlife/PA)
Haughey’s Bog (Ulster Wildlife/PA)

A former commercially harvested bog in Co Tyrone is set to be restored into a thriving peatland.

The initiative, described as a first-of-its-kind for Northern Ireland, is being led by nature conservation charity Ulster Wildlife along with the An Creagan Centre.

It will see 30 hectares of severely degraded habitat restored – equivalent to 74 football pitches – to help bring nature back, improve water quality, reduce flood risk and tackle climate change.

Over the next 10 years, Haughey’s Bog near Omagh will be rewetted and rejuvenated, trialling different restoration methods including dams and bunds in strategic areas.

It had previously been drained and cut for turf.

Haughey’s Bog (UlsterWildlife/PA)

The interventions aim to help trap water on the bog, allowing peat-forming plants to grow again and wildlife to recover, as well as reducing carbon emissions and moving the site towards carbon storage.

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Monitoring the water table, and greenhouse gas emissions, alongside monitoring specialist plants such as sphagnum mosses, and iconic wildlife such as snipe and large heath butterfly, will help assess the effectiveness of restoration.

The aim is to share knowledge and learning with practitioners, farmers, contractors and researchers facing similar challenges across peatland landscapes at home and abroad, with techniques and the latest research showcased.

Simon Gray, head of peatland recovery at Ulster Wildlife, described peatlands as “Northern Ireland’s greatest natural asset”.

“They hold over half of our land-based carbon stores, filtering masses of water and providing a vital haven for iconic wildlife. However, over 80% of them are in poor condition, with the worst, like Haughey’s Bog, dried out, devoid of life and leaking tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere,” he said.

“Restoring peatlands to a healthy condition is one of the most cost-effective nature-based solutions to tackling the nature and climate crises, but it needs to happen on a large scale and at pace.

“Collaboration and landscape-scale projects are crucial, and we are excited to be leading the way at Haughey’s Bog, educating and sharing best practices in peatland restoration to help transform these vital habitats across the country.”

Plans are also under way to connect Haughey’s Bog with Black Bog Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – one of the most intact areas of active raised bog in Northern Ireland, 100 metres away.

Ulster Wildlife is also working with Forest Service Northern Ireland to explore options for converting conifer plantations, which separate the two sites, back into their natural bog habitat.

Events and training days will be delivered at the nearby An Creagan Centre to engage local landowners and the community in peatland restoration and to share the rich heritage of the area – from the nearby standing stones and the mythical Creggan white hare to the homestead of Peadar Joe Haughey, after whom the bog is named.

John Donaghey, manager of the An Creagan Centre, said the restoration of Haughey’s Bog into a thriving ecosystem will be an important milestone.

“This initiative has great potential to develop an ethos of valuing the fragmented remnants of raised bog and the local heritage in this area, while supporting local farmers with advice, training and mentorship in this important habitat restoration work,” he said.

“We look forward to working with Ulster Wildlife, using our facilities and accommodation as a hub for activity and playing our part in helping Haughey’s Bog recover.”

The acquisition of Haughey’s Bog was made possible through funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera), a philanthropic loan from John Smith, and donations from Ulster Wildlife supporters who left gifts in their wills.