Ireland is restoring its wetlands and marshes in an effort to combat climate change. While these wet areas make up just three percent of the planet, they hold 25 percent of global CO2. Currently, approximately 8100 hectares of the “green island” have been inundated with water to create ideal conditions for new peatlands. Specialists anticipate that this restoration project will effectively store significant quantities of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Peatlands are considered to be the ecosystem with the greatest storage potential for CO₂. When a plant dies, the CO₂ stored in it is released into the water or into the marsh soil as it decays, rather than into the air. Bogs and marshlands are therefore true climate protectors!
Trees store CO₂ and release oxygen
This process is called photosynthesis. When trees die and rot, they release the remaining CO₂ into the environment, especially into the air. However, if a tree falls into a swamp, the CO₂ is not released into the air but stored in the water and soil. If the swamp dries up, and thus also the CO₂-containing mixture, peat is formed. Over thousands of years, a well-known raw material is created from it: coal!
Ireland is reforesting swamps and peatlands to fight climate change
Ireland had nearly 20% of its land covered in peatlands before the industrial revolution. Since the 1850s, a significant portion of Ireland’s natural areas, including marshlands and forests, have been destroyed. The state-owned company “Bord na Móna” aims to restore nature and transform Ireland into the green lung of Europe to combat climate change. As part of this effort, they plan to flood 33,000 hectares of alluvial land with water in the coming years. Additionally, they intend to reintroduce native plant and animal species that have been lost or eradicated over time. Currently, approximately 8,125 hectares, or just under 25%, have been reforested.
How Ireland’s marshlands were destroyed and rebuilt
The reason for the poor condition of Ireland’s peatlands is historical. The tradition of “peat cutting” has been preserved and carried on for generations. The peat, when dried, is a good fuel. For the economy, especially during the industrialization, the peat was in great demand because it could be found everywhere on the island and was therefore very cheap. Peat was also used to heat the houses in Ireland.
Another reason for the large-scale drainage of the Irish peatlands is agriculture. During the Industrial Revolution, Ireland developed not only railroads and cities, but also agriculture on a large scale. For the cultivation of food, large areas of marshland were destroyed.
At the onset of industrialization, the marshes were already being destroyed. By the late 19th century, Ireland had surpassed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Spain in terms of industrialization, despite their larger size and population. The partially state-owned Irish company, “Bord na Móna,” along with others, aims to combat environmental destruction and restore the “emerald isle” to its former glory.
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