Peatland habitats are broadly subdivided into two main types, bogs and fens. Bogs are rain-fed peatlands where almost all inputs of water are derived from precipitation whereas fens are peatlands that, in addition to precipitation, are fed by groundwater or moving surface waters. The two main types of bogs found in Ireland are raised bogs and blanket bogs.
Peatlands originally covered more than 17% of the land area of Ireland – a higher proportion than any other European country with the exception of Finland. Peatlands, together with their unique assemblage of plants and animals, are a seriously endangered western European habitat. Ireland possesses 8% of the world’s blanket bog and is one of the few countries where a wide range of peatlands still exists in a near natural state. However, peatlands, together with their unique assemblage of plants and animals, are a seriously endangered western European habitat. In Ireland over 80% of their former extent has been lost.
Typical bog plants include sphagnum mosses, rushes and sedges, bog cotton, ling heather, bog rosemary, bog asphodel and sundew. Bogs are also home to many rare and protected plants and animals, including orchids, the common frog, Irish hare, otter, hen harrier, Greenland white fronted goose, peregrine falcon, golden plover and merlin making bogs and extremely important Irish habitat in terms of biodiversity.
Despite their unique statue, our peatlands remain under threat on several fronts including domestic turf cutting, large-scale mechanised turf-extraction schemes, afforestation of upland areas, drainage, over-grazing and repeated burning.
Horticultural peats, commonly known as moss peat, is used as compost in gardening and landscaping and is derived mainly from the top layer of a raised bog. 66% of moss peat mined from raised bogs is bagged and used in private gardens. Using peat compost is one of the most environmentally damaging activities that the gardener can undertake.
For more information of Peatlands including types of peatlands in Ireland, interesting and rare species associated with peatlands, how peatlands form, the legislation that protects them and a case study on Clara bog download the Notice Nature Peatlands Factsheet.