Galway Wind Park has been chosen as one of eight sites across Europe to host an ambitious new €8.5 million rewilding project which aims to find solutions to the threats caused by climate change and biodiversity loss.
The wildE project, funded by the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme, aims to develop climate-smart rewilding initiatives in eight sites across the European Union.
Galway Wind Park, which is being restored as part of the EU Life Multi-Peat project, is Ireland’s largest and best performing wind farm. The park contains two parcels of degraded blanket bog, of 155 ha and 62 ha. Their restoration will improve the nationally important wintering area of the Greenland white fronted goose and increase the connectivity of the natural areas within the surrounding Connemara Bog Complex Special Area of Conservation network.
The wind park will also endeavour to ensure its activities are carbon balanced and to maximise the potential for sequestration of carbon and restoration of the blanket bog.
The Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics is a wildE research partner and will provide advanced data analytics techniques to support the project.
Rewilding is an approach to landscape management with an emphasis on allowing ecosystems to evolve with little to no human intervention. Until now the approach has mostly been limited to local conservation initiatives scattered across Europe. The wildE project aims to take a more holistic approach that considers climatic, economic and societal challenges.
Project lead Niall Ó’Brolcháin of the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics, a partner in the project, said: “wildE is an exciting new €8.5 million EU project involving 22 partners from across Europe researching climate-smart rewilding as a solution to the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“In Ireland the Insight SFI Centre for Data Analytics is teaming up with the department of geography in the University of Galway to examine ways to improve biodiversity and reduce carbon loss at Ireland’s largest wind farm, the Galway Wind Park, over the next four years. Based on ecological data collected during the project, the Insight SFI Research Centre will use advanced data analytics techniques to build evidence-based policy recommendations for EU and national policies.”
The European Union has set out ambitious goals to combat the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. The EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 aims to restore significant areas of degraded ecosystems and to legally protect 30 per cent of Europe’s territory, with 10 per cent under strict protection. The EU Climate Law also legally binds member states to become climate neutral by 2050.
The restoration of degraded bogs has been identified as a key action in support of natural carbon capture worldwide. In Ireland, Atlantic blanket bogs once covered an area of over 773,000 ha. Centuries of degradation due to draining, cutting and, more recently, afforestation and overgrazing, have depleted this habitat by more than 80 per cent.
Through the use of detailed surveys and models, wildE will evaluate the potential impact of rewilding on carbon and biodiversity, as well as its ability to help the EU achieve its climate, land use, economic and societal goals, today and in a warmer future. A new web platform, the Rewilding Knowledge Hub, will also provide space for stakeholders to collaborate on rewilding challenges and opportunities.
More information on wildE is available at www.wilde-project.eu and on social media @wildE.