Buffer+: An Interreg NWE project focusing much needed attention on peatlands

Celebrating World Wetlands Day 2024 by introducing the new Buffer+ project focusing on restoring peatlands across five NW European countries, including Ireland. 

Matthew Woodard


World Wetlands Day is celebrated to raise global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for the environment and humanity. It marks the date that the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an international treaty for wetland conservation and sustainable use was adopted in 1971. The day serves as an opportunity to highlight the critical importance of wetlands, which are crucial for biodiversity, water purification, flood control, and climate change mitigation.

Ireland has a unique historical and cultural relationship with our wetlands, from ancient bog body sacrifices to heating our homes for generations. In fact, peatlands once covered a fifth of the country and feature heavily in Ireland’s mythological and economic histories. However, today 80-90 per cent is considered degraded, about half due to industrial peat extraction and traditional and mechanical turf cutting and the remainder drained for agriculture, forestry, and other land uses.

BUFFER+ is a new Interreg NWE-funded project that will run for four years through individual partner projects across five NW European countries (Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands). Each project aims to restore the capacity of peatlands to buffer water and carbon. BUFFER+ partners focus on practical and economically viable climate change adaptations and mitigation methods, while at the same time working to restore biodiversity and create new revenue streams.

Damaged or drained peatlands release greenhouse gas emissions, through oxidation of the buried carbon and peat fires. Raising the water levels in degraded peatlands (known as rewetting) effectively and rapidly reduces emissions and is the first step towards the longer-term project of restoring their function as natural carbon sinks.

BUFFER+ in Ireland will focus on two pilots, each aiming to highlight the benefits to the local area of rewetting peatlands. One of these pilots is based in Donegal. This pilot will provide flood alleviation solutions via drain blocking and increased water retention in local peatlands to reduce the overall flood risk to the village of Clonmany which is severely affected by flooding. Recently appointed Peatland Restoration Officer Barry McLaughlin will be working with Inishowen Rivers Trust on this pilot. BeeOdiversity will also be working on the project to select sites for bee hives in the area, which will be used to assess the biodiversity of the locality and the impact of restored wetlands.

Peatland and Paludiculture Officer Freya Connolly has joined to work alongside the River Moy Trust to demonstrate the concept of paludiculture to local farmers and act as an introduction to wet agriculture for the wider Irish audience. Wet agriculture, or ‘paludiculture’ is the production of biomass on wetlands with the benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The project aims to test a variety of ‘paludicrops’ on rewetted and restored peatlands to advertise the practice as a viable alternative to draining peatlands.

Back to top