Ireland is undertaking the reforestation of its swamps and bogs as a strategy to combat climate change. While marshlands make up just three percent of the planet, they hold 25 percent of global CO2. Currently, approximately 8100 hectares of the “green island” have been inundated with water to facilitate the creation of ideal peatland conditions. Specialists anticipate that this “renaturation” initiative will effectively sequester significant quantities of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Peatlands are considered to be the ecosystem with the greatest storage potential for CO₂. When a plant dies, the CO₂ stored in it is released into the water or into the marsh soil as it decays, rather than into the air. Bogs and marshlands are therefore true climate protectors!
Trees store CO₂ and release oxygen
This process is called photosynthesis. When trees die and rot, they release the remaining CO₂ into the environment, especially into the air. However, if a tree falls into a swamp, the CO₂ is not released into the air but stored in the water and soil. If the swamp dries up, and thus also the CO₂-containing mixture, peat is formed. Over thousands of years, a well-known raw material is created from it: coal!
Ireland is reforesting swamps and peatlands to fight climate change
During the industrial revolution, approximately 20% of Ireland was covered in peatlands. Since the 1850s, significant portions of Ireland’s natural environment, including marshlands and numerous forests, have been destroyed. The state-owned company “Bord na Móna” aims to restore nature and transform Ireland into the green lung of Europe to combat climate change. To achieve this, they plan to flood 33,000 hectares of alluvial land with water in the coming years. Additionally, they intend to reintroduce native plant and animal species that have been eradicated or driven out over time. Currently, around 25% (8125 hectares) of the land has been reforested.
How Ireland’s marshlands were destroyed and rebuilt
The reason for the poor condition of Ireland’s peatlands is historical. The tradition of “peat cutting” has been preserved and carried on for generations. The peat, when dried, is a good fuel. For the economy, especially during the industrialization, the peat was in great demand because it could be found everywhere on the island and was therefore very cheap. Peat was also used to heat the houses in Ireland.
Agriculture is another factor contributing to the extensive draining of the Irish peatlands. As Ireland underwent the Industrial Revolution, it witnessed the growth of not just railroads and cities, but also large-scale agricultural practices. In order to cultivate crops, significant portions of marshland were eradicated.
At the onset of industrialization, the marshes were already being destroyed. By the late 19th century, Ireland had surpassed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Spain in terms of industrialization, despite their larger size and population. The partially state-owned Irish company, “Bord na Móna,” along with others, aims to combat environmental destruction and restore the “emerald isle” to its former glory.
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