Restoring Bogs at Roadbridge

Monday, October 11th, 2021

As part of a biodiversity enhancement plan, Roadbridge and the site developer identified three separate areas (spanning 16 hectares) of degraded, upland blanket bog for habitat restoration within the Galway Wind Park site, Ireland’s largest wind farm located 20km north-west of Galway. This area of focus had been significantly devegetated and eroded by years of overgrazing and turf cutting practices. The primary objectives of this biodiversity enhancement plan were to:

• Promote the natural restoration of blanket bog habitat through the establishment of protected blocks where sustainable sheep grazing is put in place for a defined period of time (5 to 6 years)
• Cease all turf cutting and extraction practices
• Increase the population of key indicator flora species such as Sphagnum and Ericaceous that are associated with active bogs
• Eliminate invasive plant species from within the study areas so as to allow natural recolonisation by native vegetation

A baseline botanical survey using quadrats was undertaken in early 2015. Reference quadrats were also established outside the fenced areas. Grazing access is not permitted from November to March and only low-intensity grazing is permitted within the study areas from April to October. By the completion of the autumn 2017 assessment, an overall increase of 17-22% in vegetation cover was noted, compared to the beginning of the study in January 2015. Up to nine new species of flora had also been recorded. There had been an increase of up to 18% in grasses and sedges
between year one and year three.

The cut and dab stem treatment of nonnative invasive rhododendron plants in year one has proved successful with
no new stands of non-native plants establishing in years two or three. By autumn 2017, the study area was noted to be free of invasive plant species. By working closely with local landowners, a workable yet sustainable grazing
regime has been established that has allowed for a small but significant increase in the re-colonisation of native vegetation across the study areas.

This project is contributing to the enhancement of the ecosystem by:

• Minimising soil loss via adequate vegetation cover and root biomass
• Providing shade and shelter for small mammals, ground nesting birds and birds of prey;
• Plant species diversity and richness is enhancing pollination rates.

By continuing to curtail turf cutting practices, reducing stock densities and grazing periods, it is anticipated that the
habitat within the study area will continue to recover over the coming years. The increase in native vegetation has also increased the foraging potential for mammals and birds of prey. This biodiversity project has also helped to foster a working partnership with local landowners and given them an appreciation of the benefits of sustainable farming practices.