Book Chapter Details
Mandatory Fields
Renou-Wilson F.;Byrne K.
2015 January
Restoration of Boreal and Temperate Forests, Second Edition
Irish peatland forests: Lessons from the past and pathways to a sustainable future
Optional Fields
2016 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Lying between the 51 and 55 northern latitudes, the island of Ireland covers an area of 84,000 km2 and is made up of a central plain enclosed by coastal highlands. The 4.6 million inhabitants living in the Republic of Ireland (Ireland hereafter) enjoy a mild temperate climate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, characterized by cool summers, mild winters, and significant amounts of cloudiness, high atmospheric humidity and windiness. With these climatic conditions, it is not surprising therefore that one-fifth of the country is covered by peat soils. Peatlands are a significant element in the Irish landscape with peat soils estimated to cover 20% (1.46 million ha, see Figure 15.1) of the land area (Connolly and Holden 2009) and have been widely utilized over the centuries for energy and horticultural peat production, agriculture, and forestry. Of the Holocene extent of fens and bogs in Ireland, only 15% of the original peatland cover is in near-intact condition (i.e., low level of degradation) with an even smaller proportion being fully functioning mires (i.e., active peat forming ecosystem) (Wilson et al. 2013). The area of undisturbed fens is very small as they have long been drained and reclaimed for agricultural use. Two bog morphologies are found in Ireland: raised and blanket bogs, the latter being the most extensive and is subdivided into Atlantic blanket bog and mountain blanket bog. Peat soils, by definition, Forests contains peat over a depth of at least 45 cm on undrained land and 30 cm deep on drained land; the depth requirement does not apply in the event that the peat layer is directly over bedrock (Renou-Wilson et al. 2011). However the range of biogeochemical characteristics of peat soils encountered in Ireland is wide because of the various processes leading to the formation of peat landforms.
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