Restoration And Agricultural Alternatives For Offaly’s Peatlands
An initiative to create an Irish Wetland Code that financially rewards farmers in return for enhancing the public and ecosystem service potential of their peatlands.
Wetland Code For Regenerative Agriculture & Carbon Farming
We are working with landowners to create a results-based agri-environmental scheme that rewards farmers for improving the environmental services provided by regenerating their peatlands. By carrying out a comprehensive program of practical surveys and scientific work, before and after the implementation of selected measures, we will quantify changes in carbon storage, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity of farm habitats, water quality and soil health.
This is a two-year project (2021-2023), co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the EU, that is being conducted on peatland sections in the catchments of Camcor, Little Brosna and Silver River in County Offaly and neighbouring counties.
Our Boundary: Lands within 1 km of Camcor, Little Brosna and Silver River catchments
Voluntary Pilot Agri-Environmental Research Initiative
With the help of participating farmers, we are conducting a voluntary pilot initiative of agri-environmental research to explore options for economically viable carbon farming methods by quantifying improvements in carbon sequestration, biodiversity and water quality for measures, both tried and tested and new and innovative, with citizen science and innovative technologies.
Peatlands comprise only 3% of the Earth’s surface but hold about 25% of global soil carbon. This is twice as much as the world’s forests making them the best terrestrial stores of carbon on the planet.
In Ireland, however, the fact that over 20% of the country is covered in peat soils means that the estimated 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon they hold constitutes more than 53% of our soil carbon and due to our low forest cover this is almost five times more than that stored in our trees!
Depending on the depth of the peat body there may be several thousand tonnes of carbon stored per hectare, an amount similar to or exceeding that stored in the giant redwood forests of California.
Healthy peatlands act like giant sponges, providing multiple benefits including control of water flow which helps mitigate flooding, improving water quality, sequestering carbon and as a habitat for rare and wonderful flora and fauna. When drained, however, they lose these characteristics and the unique micro-topography begins to collapse. Emitting up to 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare annually and release polluting dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nutrients into our waterways.
Participating ‘lighthouse’ farms will act as research centres where we explore ways of protecting our carbon stock, restore the sequestration of carbon, maximise ecosystem benefits, and build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Farm:Carbon will meet these objectives whilst improving farm incomes. As a part of the Just Transition, we will provide a comprehensive scalable framework that can guide future policy that regenerates both the land and resilience in Irish farming.
To manage the multi-faceted nature of peatland, we’re committed to a collaborative approach, working with farmers and our wide range of project partners, to determine what is best suited to each site. For peatland areas, restoration works will include but are not limited to, re-wetting, partial re-wetting or paludiculture (wetland agriculture).
Participating farmers may be eligible for a combination of action- and results-based payments that address the environmental impacts arising from agricultural peatlands and adjacent lands.