€200,000 project proposes to use advanced tech including AI and drones to monitor deteriorating peatlands.
Artificial intelligence is being used to monitor and protect Ireland’s existing peatlands and boost biodiversity
A €200,000 project led by CeADAR, Ireland’s centre for applied artificial intelligence (AI), is one of 26 teams taking part in the €65m National Challenge Fund competition to help Ireland become carbon neutral by 2050.
“Peatlands are a very important natural ecosystem in Ireland”
AI2Peat project is a collaboration between CeADAR, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and iCRAG – the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Applied Geosciences.
Beyond bog standards
Led by Dr. Oisín Boydell, Director of Applied Research at CeADAR and Dr. Eoghan Holohan of iCRAG, AI2Peat aims to address challenges around monitoring remote peatlands and estimating the carbon storage capacity of individual habitats.
Led by Dr Oisín Boydell, Director of Applied Research at CeADAR and Dr Eoghan Holohan of iCRAG, AI2Peat aims to address challenges around monitoring remote peatlands and estimating the carbon storage capacity of individual habitats.
The research team also plans to use data gathered by drones, satellites, and citizen scientists to develop an all-Ireland mapping solution to identify peatland areas under threat from erosion, exploitation and climate change, and to identify areas of high conservation value.
“Peatlands are a very important natural ecosystem in Ireland,” said Dr Boydell. “The specific purpose of AI2Peat is to protect and monitor these habitats, but our goal is to influence policy around environmental protection, biodiversity, and climate change. Ultimately, we’re interested in assisting organisations like the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who are struggling to protect these vast and remote spaces.
Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon in their soil and aquatic plant life. Over decades, the process of draining peatlands for farming, afforestation and extracting fuel for industrial and domestic use has turned these areas from carbon sinks to carbon emitters.
Peatlands also play a vital role in maintaining the biodiversity level of the countryside and protecting nearby urban areas from flooding during heavy downpours. Upland peatlands are also important source catchments for the water supply to urban areas, such as Dublin city and the greater Dublin region.
“The State has long had an enormous challenge in protecting its vast array of peatland habitats,” said Dr Shane Regan, Senior Scientist at the National Parks and Wildlife ServiceThe majority of these peatlands are in poor condition and are large sources of carbon emissions. Improvements in the ways we can remotely detect high quality areas for protection, and areas that can potentially be restored with intervention measures, will be enormously beneficial and help direct financial resources to areas where they are most needed.”
Ireland’s peatlands cover around 17% of the land surface area of the country. Peatla. protection has long been a sensitive issue for many in rural Ireland who have a cultural connection to the land and rely on turf as a cheap source of fuel.
AI2Peat is now in the six-month concept stage of the National Challenge Fund project, in which organisers receive €50,000 in funding to explore the problem. This is to be followed by the seed phase in which teams will receive €150,000 to engage experts, local stakeholders, and communities on the ground to gauge the applicability of their proposed solutions.
In the final stage, 10 teams are selected from the group of 26 to further develop their projects and are awarded an additional €500,000. Following that, the best project is selected by a judging panel with the winner receiving further funding of €1m.
Main image at top: Drone image showing erosion of peatlands in Jamestown bog, Co Meath