Mad about the Bog

30th March 2017
News Item

Why are we mad about Mongan Bog? Here’s why!

Mongan bog has the reputation for being one of the oldest, best-preserved raised bogs in Western Europe, and home to an array of flora and fauna. It can be considered perhaps one of the most significant bogs, not just in Ireland but also Europe and globally.

Mongan bog is mostly publicly owned but is part owned by An Taisce, having acquired 125.61 hectares from Bord na Mona in 1979, around the time where peatland conservation was beginning to take off. In the 1970s, the realisation of the need to conserve raised bogs led to an Irish-Dutch movement to restore bogs, with bogs such as Mongan serving as a catalyst. Mongan bog was one of the first raised bogs to undergo restoration in the 1980s, the success of which is visible now.

Located 12kms south of Athlone, it is found less than 2km from the renowned Monastery of Clonmacnoise, known as one of Ireland’s most sacred sites. Visiting Pilgrims to the area would have viewed this unique bog from the adjacent Pilgrims Road. Mongan Bog SAC is thought to be over 9,000 years old, with its lowest layers among the oldest in Ireland. With this strong connection to the past, it has also been recognised, along with Clara Bog, as a part of Ireland’s Ancient East. [Note 1]

Nature at the Bog

On Mongan bog, nature abounds. The bog is teeming with numerous species of plants, insects and animals. The bog contains not only a high density of Sphagnum mosses, covering almost 90% of the ground, but also a variety of plant life, such as heather, cross-leaved heath, bog rosemary, cranberry, bog cotton, round-leaved sundew and bog asphodel.

Mongan bog provides habitat for a multitude of breeding bird species, many of which are in decline, including Curlew, Snipe, Skylark, and Meadow Pipit. It was former habitat for the corncrake. It is also home to the Mallard and, in increasingly declining numbers, the Greenland White-fronted Goose. In winter, it provides habitat for Hen Harrier and there have been sightings of White-Tailed eagle, Short eared owl and Buzzard. It’s alive with insects, with 5 rare spider species competing for space, along with beetles and water bugs. The Irish hare and common frog also call it home, with badger and fox in marginal areas of the bog. [Note 2]

Geography and Geology

Besides this wonderful abundance of living species, the bog also has many interesting geographical and natural features, which serve as important habitats, such as Shannon callows, eskers and limestone pavements. Formed in a basin between two east-west trending eskers, Mongan bog retains the features characteristic of active raised bog. A raised bog is an accumulation of peat, originating in shallow lake basins. As the peat accumulates the bog grows upwards creating the dome structure. Mongan bog is typical of this type of bog, containing many of the typical hummock and pool formations of active raised bog, with some hummocks reaching 150cm in height. [Note 3]

Mongan Bog is one of the last relatively intact bogs along the River Shannon, which is located only 1.5km away. It is a wet living bog which consists of Active Raised Bog covering almost 40% of the high bog area. The River has been prone to flooding in recent years, in large part due to the loss of the bogland along its banks and its capacity to absorb excess water. It is estimated that Mongan Bog was one of the smallest bogs in the area. However, as many surrounding bogs have been damaged by human action, Mongan is now of great importance as it contains the largest area of active raised bog in the area. It is estimated by the LIFE Raised Bogs project, that approximately 40.5% of the original dome still exists. Mongan bog plays and integral role in raised bog preservation, as it is estimated that less than 0.5% remains of the original area which supported active raised bog habitats in the past. [Note 4]

About the LIFE Raised Bog project

Mongan Bog is part of the LIFE Raised Bog project or ‘The Living Bog’, which aims to improve over 2,600 hectares of raised bog habitat in Ireland’s SACs over the next five years, restoring habitat for numerous important flora and fauna. It incorporates 12 important raised bogs across 7 counties and is funded by the EU LIFE Natural and Biodiversity programme (€5.4 million) and the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

These important wetland habitats once covered approximately 350,000 hectares of the country. We have in Ireland and Europe lost many of our boglands due to human action (‘activity’), including the mechanised turf-cutting, extraction of peat for horticulture and for electricity generation, to a degree that no bog has been unaffected in some way. With the stark realisation of the need for peatland conservation in the 1970s, the Irish-Dutch movement went about trying to restore remaining salvageable bogs, in particular Mongan, Clara and Raheenmore Bog. Since then, 53 of the raised bogs that have been saved, have been designated as SACs under the Habitats Directive. With an estimated 99% loss of the former area of active growing raised bog, only 1,650 ha of the remaining ‘intact’ high bog can now be classified as living, ‘Active Raised Bog’ which has prompted its conservation. The project also hopes to encourage community involvement and collaboration to help cultivate better understanding and public awareness of the value of our raised bogs, not only as important habitats for many species, such as the endangered curlew, but also for their role in carbon storage and flood prevention. The Living Bog project aims, in some way to “restore a little piece of this iconic Irish landscape to leave a large legacy for future generations”. [Note 5]

Read more about:

Mongan Bog - An Taisce Property - http://www.antaisce.org/properties/mongan-bog-co-offaly

Mongan Bog and the LIFE Project - http://raisedbogs.ie/about-mongan-bog/

Ireland’s Ancient East- https://www.irelandsancienteast.com/see-do/nature/nature-and-wildlife/clara-bog-and-mongan-bog

Notes: [1] The Living Bog - About Mongan Bog - http://raisedbogs.ie/about-mongan-bog/

[2] The Living Bog - Life on Mongan Bog - http://raisedbogs.ie/life-on-mongan-bog/

[3] “Mongan Bog SAC.” Conservation Objectives Supporting Document. Natural Parks and Wildlife Services - https://www.npws.ie/content/publications/mongan-bog-sac-000580-conservation-objectives-supporting-document-raised-bog

[4] The Living Bog - About Mongan Bog

[5] The Living Bog - About the Living Bog http://raisedbogs.ie/about-the-living-bog/