By Gareth Bareham, RSPB NI CABB Project Manager (Garron Plateau)

In spite of the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 this year, we have been actively continuing our partnership work on Northern Ireland’s largest expanse of blanket bog, up on the wild and spectacular Garron Plateau in County Antrim.

This area hosts some of our rarest plants – including the beautiful and rare marsh saxifrage (below) – and a well-managed and functioning blanket bog on the site will help species including hen harriers, curlews (above) and cuckoos (some of our most iconic birds of the wild uplands) to survive in future.

It has been estimated that the blanket bog on Garron holds nearly six million tonnes of carbon – showing the global importance of our bogs in Northern Ireland, not only for their amazing biodiversity but also their crucial role in helping mitigate against the impacts of climate change.
However, it also demonstrates how vital it is that we look after these habitats and how important restoring damaged bogs is; we simply can’t do this work alone, and this is where the partnerships come in.

Northern Ireland Water results coming from the hugely ambitious bog restoration work undertaken by RSPB NI, NI Water, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the farmers on the catchment land at Dungonnell catchment in the past few years are already showing very positive outcomes for nature and people.

After the extensive drain blocking to re-wet the bog, completed as part of the Co-operation Across Borders for Biodiversity (CABB) INTERREG VA Project, and the improved conservation grazing introduced by the famers in agreement with NI Water to help recover the ‘living skin’ of sphagnum moss - which filters the water and actively grows the bog - significant improvements in the water quality and how the bog is functioning are being recorded.

Of course, the end result of all this work is not just better drinking water for approximately 14,000 households in the catchment area but a site much better for nature too.
We will continue to work with farmers to make sure the site is grazed to benefit the sensitive habitats and species and to help the farmers get the support they need to be able to do this. 
We are also looking at other areas of the Garron site, where more drain blocking and re-vegetating bare areas will help the bog recover.

Read more on the Co-operation Across Borders for Biodiversity project here.

The RSPB is working on uplands restoration projects across the UK.
In England, we're calling on the government to 'ban the burn': the burning of peatland on shooting estates is causing environmental damage.
In Scotland, we’re helping to restore the peatlands 800 metres up in the Cairngorms
And in Wales, we're working with farmers to look after these precious places - read more in Welsh / read more in English