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16 October 2014

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Coasts Mountains, Lakes & Rivers Settlement Land Use & Economic Activity Ecosystems
Breen Wood Rathlin Island Lough Neagh Cuilcagh Mountains Strangford Lough
Cuilcagh Mountains clipWatch Video Map

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Cuilcagh Mountain in County Fermanagh consists of sandstone and limestone. Reaching 665m at its highest point, Cuilcagh's rocky middle slopes are covered in blanket bog. This area of Cuilcagh hosts one of the largest peat land or bog land ecosystems in Northern Ireland.

Being a highland area, poor soils and high rainfall are common. Poor drainage prevents the water running away and the land becomes water-logged. The soil is made up of peat which is formed from rotted plants. The acidic water prevents the leaf material from rotting fully. Layers of dead plants build up over tens of thousands of years to form peat.

The animals and plants have adapted to this unique damp acidic environment. Frogs and newts are found in the pools of water. Birdlife includes grouse, golden plover and lapwings. Sundew and Bog cotton are also found growing amongst the grass. They are able to cope with the really poor soils and the really damp conditions. Hares and squirrels live on the lower parts of the mountains. Heather, lichens and mosses are the main plants in the boggy areas.

The biggest threat to the ecosystem is peat extraction. For years people have cut the bog to make peat, which was dried out and used to heat homes. As this was done by hand in small areas this cutting had little impact on the ecosystem. Peat is now cut by large machines. The machines cover larger areas and remove the peat at a greater rate. The machines also damage the surrounding areas, and kill the plants.

Farmers drained the land for grazing animals. In some areas of the blanket bog, pine trees were commercially grown. These trees drained the water out of the land and the native plants were unable to survive in the drier conditions.

The resulting reduction of the plant life affected the whole bog land ecosystem. Removing food for mammals and birds and reducing cover for nesting.

Since 1997 part of Cuilcagh has been protected. This means that grazing levels have been reduced and peat extraction by machine has been stopped. Drainage channels have been blocked to allow water levels to return to their natural state and the ecosystem has gradually started to recover.

Cuilcagh's rocky middle slopes are covered in a blanket bog ecosystem.

Peat is formed from layers of dead plants that have built up over tens of thousands of years.

The bog land ecosystem supports a range of animals and plants that have adapted to its damp acidic environment.

The biggest threat to the ecosystem is peat extraction. The large machines remove the peat at a great rate and damage the plants.

Farming and forestry also damage the delicate bogland ecosystem.

Since 1997 part of Cuilcagh has been protected and peat extraction has been stopped.



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