Dr Shane Regan
Dept. of Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering
A framework for the restoration of degraded peatlands
EcoMetrics - environmental supporting conditions for groundwater dependent terrestrial ecosystems (GWDTE)
Keywords: peatland; GWDTE; ecosystem services; ecohydrology; climate change.
Wetlands are a diverse array of ecosystems found across a broad range of climatic and environmental settings, giving rise to a rich spectrum in biodiversity. In Ireland, wetlands range from upland and low-lying ombrotrophic bogs, groundwater-fed fens to ephemeral karst groundwater lakes/turloughs. Together they represent a significant natural capital resource, providing fundamental ecosystem services such as hotspots of biodiversity, climate regulation, water purification, flood protection, recreation and ecotourism. However, in the past 100 years, two thirds of Europe’s wetlands have been lost, and those that remain are often heavily degraded, making them among Europe’s most threatened ecosystems.
My research is focused on understanding the eco-hydrological functionality of wetlands, particularly peatlands, and to apply this information in restoration design and management. This research is currently funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and I am managing a project on developing a stakeholder framework tool/methodology for peatland restoration. As part of this, an important aim of the research is to evaluate the carbon emissions originating from natural and degraded raised bogs. The research is thereby focused on understanding the controls and pathways on these emissions as a means of informing restoration strategies that must be put in place to reinstate positive carbon functions.
Additionally, I will soon start work on managing a newly awarded EPA project, EcoMetrics. This project will develop potential environmental supporting condition metrics for a subset of Groundwater Terrestrial Dependent Ecosystems (GWDTE), focusing on turloughs, fens and raised bogs, which are required for the European Union (EU) Water Framework Directive (WFD) characterisation process. The Environmental Engineering Research Group has a long history in GWDTE research, and the database collected over a considerable number of years will be used to develop the appropriate metrics, in addition to applying remote sensing techniques to describe wetland extent and structure over larger spatial scales, not possible in site-specific field monitoring programmes.
On top of my research interests in wetland eco-hydrology and carbon biogeochemistry, I have active interests in other aspects of environmental engineering, such as understanding the eco-hydraulic supporting conditions of the freshwater pearl mussel, sediment transport in upland rivers, the links between dissolved organic carbon and human health and isotope hydrology; all of which I have either published on or have articles under review.