During an internal review of Council's land assets to identify suitable locations to meet tree planting targets, Keeran Moss was identified as a 30ha peatland site, unmanaged for a prolonged period of time.
Keeran Moss is located on the Cairn Road, Carrickfergus, County Antrim. It sits amidst the improved and semi-improved grasslands of neighbouring dairy, beef and sheep farms. It is surrounded by scattered farms and dwellings, with one residence located in the south west corner directly adjacent to the site.
Understanding that peatland is essential to local and regional carbon storage targets, as well as valuable habitat for biodiversity and conservation priorities, Council realised this small site could be environmentally significant, and advice was sought from RSPB NI. RSPB NI undertook ecological assessments on site and completed a Conservation Action Plan to identify priorities and plan necessary conservation works which would inform external funding bids.
When the DAERA Environmental Challenge Fund opened in May 2021, an application was made for the restoration of Keeran Moss. Council was awarded £70,000 funding for the project in August 2021. Council and RSPB NI will work in partnership on this project and to manage the site ongoing.
Works on site will include conifer and gorse removal, mowing, spoil removal, ditch blocking, the creation of two new ponds where the site naturally dips, hedgerow restoration, invasive species management, fly tipping removal, additional ecological surveys as required.
Initial species surveys on site indicate a range of amber and red listed birds - including snipe, grasshopper warbler, willow warbler, common redpoll, and reed bunting - are present and potentially breeding on site. Restoration works will ensure this site is protected and the site could provide habitat for other priority species such as hen harrier, curlew, lapwing, and dragonfly.
Initial surveys show peat banks and islands on site currently vary between 70cm and 1 metre in depth. Peat excavated sections were either at mineral soil level or had peat depths of less than 20cm. There is well developed Sphagnum Mosses on site, a vital part the carbon sequestration carried out by an active blanket bog, which will be protected. A Natural Capital baseline study will be carried out ahead of works beginning to measure how much carbon the site currently stores, it is likely the site may emit carbon rather than store carbon in its current state. The study will also show how much carbon the site will hold following restoration works. This will be important data for Council and will contribute to climate change goals.
Work in partnership. Link to regional initiatives e.g. UK Peatland Strategy.
Look out for external funding opportunities. Share best practice.