01 Nov 2023

A recent paper by Allan et al. in Restoration Ecology, the Journal of the Society for Ecological Restoration, confirms that planting Sphagnum moss accelerates successful peatland restoration.

Peatlands are climate heroes, which are home to many rare and threatened species. They provide society with important ecosystem services, like carbon storage, flood prevention, and clean drinking water, as well as being central to cultural heritage and identity in Ireland. Peatlands around the world have historically been drained and degraded which impacts the provision of these essential services. In order to continue to function as resilient habitats which serve society, peatlands must be restored and rehabilitated.

Sphagnum moss species are key plants in the development and existence of bog habitats. To successfully restore peatlands, the recovery of characteristic peat-forming vegetation like Sphagnum is essential. To learn more about this ecosystem engineer, read our informational article from the Bord na Móna ecology team.

Research by Allan et al.

In order to better understand restoration techniques conducted on peatlands, the research analysed temperate and boreal Sphagnum dominated peatlands in 28 studies and 275 sites across 11 countries. Variables included the health of the peatland (intact, restored, or degraded), the restoration techniques used, and the time since restoration was carried out. Vegetation cover acted as a key indicator of the condition and function of the peatlands.

The research showed that active reintroduction of peatland plants such as Sphagnum mosses successfully accelerated the reestablishment of self-regulating peatland vegetation. By contrast, on sites with passive restoration (where degradation was stopped, but there was no active restoration) there was only limited recovery of keystone peatland vegetation, and it occurred over much longer timescales.

Sphagnum Inoculation in LIFE IP Peatlands and People

As part of the restoration activities in Pillar 1 of LIFE IP Peatlands and People, Bord na Móna have commenced the planting of Sphagnum moss on rewetted peatlands which were formerly used for industrial peat extraction. The rewetting of these peatlands was carried out through Bord na Móna’s Peatland Climate Action Scheme (PCAS). By planting Sphagnum moss on suitable areas of rewetted peatland, the aim is to accelerate the revegetation on top of the peat, and ultimately revert the peatlands to resilient ecosystems and carbon sinks. Find out more about the Sphagnum inoculation in Pillar 1.