New peatland map for NI underway

This summer, Ulster Wildlife is leading a project to create a new map of Northern Ireland’s peatlands, working in partnership with the James Hutton Institute (JHI) in Scotland - with support from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, DAERA and AFBI.

Monday, 2nd August 2021, 7:51 am

With JHI’s strong track record of producing peat maps for Scotland and the Falkland Islands, they will use the latest computer-generated modelling methods to give a more accurate picture of where our peatlands are, how much peat is in them, the condition they are in, and how much carbon they hold – or might be releasing- as greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

JHI will produce the maps by integrating all existing sources of information, such as the AFBI soil database, land cover, terrain, geology, and weather and satellite imagery and Ulster Wildlife will back up the process with some ground verification by sampling and observation to cover the range of variation found across our peatlands and peaty soils. The sampling will be led by Jim McAdam of Ulster Wildlife.

Jim has a long history of working with farmers and is a facilitator for the Ulster Wildlife Environmental Farming Scheme Group in the Carn/Glenshane upland and peatland area.

He said: “For the next four to five weeks don’t be concerned if you come across the strange sight of someone with a long measuring pole over their shoulder walking across to some obscure point on your land to quickly take their measurement. At each point, we will be spending a short time measuring the depth of the peat (with rods) and taking a small soil sample for carbon analysis, leaving absolutely no impact on the land.”

The peatland map will not generate any features that could identify the land where samples and observations were collected or, very importantly, the landowner. Jim and his team are fully aware of the sensitivities and concerns farmers can feel about seeing someone strange on their land and they will leave a note and contact details in their car whilst working.

Jennifer Fulton, Ulster Wildlife Chief Executive said: “Ulster Wildlife continues to work to help farmers and other landowners in the vital mission of managing peatlands so they can lock up carbon and store it for the long-term. We are all increasingly aware of the importance of our peatlands as a key part of our culture and heritage. While they are well-recognised in helping to provide clean water, control floods and conserve biodiversity, their ability to do this is now facing challenges from the changing climate.

“To protect and conserve these valuable resources and fully realise their potential in combating climate change now, and for generations to come, there is a need to accelerate our efforts on peatland management in Northern Ireland.

“Then in partnership and by agreement, we can all begin to maximise their ability to hold vast stores of carbon and help people realise the benefits gained from new approaches to managing the land.”

The map will be used to help landowners and farmers to inform future agri-environment schemes providing information on areas suitable for peatland restoration, helping to combat the effects of climate change and to meet net-zero carbon targets. The peat maps will be used to support the delivery of the Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy and inform the development of climate change policy.

If you would like to contact Ulster Wildlife directly, please contact Dr Ian Garner, Peatlands Innovation, at Ulster Wildlife – [email protected] You can also contact the Ulster Farmers’ Union for information on the project – [email protected]