Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are defined as the benefits gained by humankind from surrounding environments. There are four types of ecosystem services: provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services.

Provisioning services

Peatlands can produce fibre and fuel through peat and plants. These materials are used in horticulture, agriculture but also domestic and industrial energy generation. Bogs are also environment rich in plants and animals that can be used for food, as well as (in the case of plants) medicine.

Ireland used and still is using peatlands for peat extraction. This millenary practice was fully developed in the 1930s with the institution of Bord Na Móna (Turf Development Board at the time) to sustain a country that needed a local, affordable source of energy. Today, Ireland is moving towards the cessation of the use of peat, first of all in the industry.

Peatlands were and are used as agricultural or forestry land after drainage. This practice is problematic because increases the possibility of floods in the area.

will o wisp watercolor

Regulating services

Bogs regulate the climate on global, regional and local scales by balancing greenhouse gases and climate processes (e.g. air temperature). Peatlands are involved in water purification and regulation. In fact, they can remove excess nutrients or pollutants and can also store water, behaving like a sponge to prevent floods.

Cultural services

Today, peatlands are used in Ireland as important sites for children and adults education on biodiversity and ecology. Ireland’s folklore is linked to peatlands as well. An example is Will-o’-the-wisp. This figure would bring people astray and it was associated with people disappearing near a bog.

 

Supporting services

Peatlands are essential unique habitats for unique species: they are rich in biodiversity and should be protected against biodiversity loss. In Ireland, peatlands are essentials to increase the breeding of Curlews. This species has decreased by 97% since the 80s and is now on the IUCN Red List. Restoring peatlands means helping these birds recover.

These environments also contribute to soil formation through the accumulation of organic matter and nutrient cycling because they store, recycle and process nutrients.