The University of Galway is set to establish the National Peatland Centre of Excellence, which will focus on collaborating with farmers, sharing research, and providing advisory services. The initiative for the centre was born out of the Peatland Futures event held at the university, where experts, policymakers, and stakeholders came together to discuss the future of peatland and wetland research and innovation in Ireland.
Dr. Terry Morley, the organizer of the event, highlighted that while there is a significant amount of peatland research taking place in Ireland, the country lacks coordinated demonstration sites. He emphasized the need for a central place where farmers can access information and seek advice on managing their land in relation to current or future carbon schemes.
To aid in the development of the National Peatland Centre, an agreement has already been made with the Greifswald Mire Centre in Germany. In the short-term, infrastructure will be developed in County Galway, with plans to expand and establish hubs in the midlands in the long-term. These hubs will be accessible to the public and may also host informative seminars.
Dr. Morley highlighted the poor state of Ireland’s peatlands, with only 1% of active raised bogs currently functioning and 85% degraded. However, he also expressed the potential for Ireland to become an international leader in peat restoration. With around 20 different research programs focused on peatland taking place nationwide, there is a need for a centralized repository of information. Current research efforts largely revolve around carbon sequestration, with projects such as Teagasc’s ongoing measurement of atmospheric gas concentrations using a flux tower.
Dr. Morley acknowledged the willingness of farmers to adopt new practices but noted the confusion surrounding compensation. The National Peatland Centre aims to drive policy changes that will enable affected farmers to receive compensation for their efforts in reducing emissions on their land. Dr. Morley drew a parallel to the ACRES program, which provides long-term funding for farmers, and emphasized the importance of providing farmers with assurance, support, and advice to make the best use of their land from a climate standpoint.
In conclusion, the establishment of the National Peatland Centre of Excellence at the University of Galway will provide a central hub for farmers to access information, seek advice, and contribute to peatland restoration efforts. The center aims to drive policy changes that will lead to compensation for farmers’ emission-reducing actions and help position Ireland as an international leader in peat restoration.