Effects of peat depth and aeration on species performance in afforested industrial cutaway peatlands.

  • Kevin Black FERS Ltd, Forestry Division, 117 East Courtyard, Tullyvale, Cabinteely, Dublin, D18E00
  • Mike Keane The Bush, Windgates, Bray, Co. Wicklow.
  • Gerry McNally Great Connell, Newbridge, Co. Kildare
  • Michael Carey Furze Lodge, Newcastle, Greystones, Co. Wicklow.
Keywords: Peat depth, species suitability, cutaway peatlands.


Many of the current recommendations for afforestation of industrial cutaway peatlands in Ireland are based on findings from trials established under the BOGFOR programme. These recommendations, however, were based mainly on observations from pre-thicket stage crops and questions, such as the long-term nutritional status of established crops and productivity of various species, remained unanswered. In this study, the performance of selected species was reviewed across a range of previously established experimental trials and demonstration areas. Preliminary investigation highlighted nutritional check and dieback on Norway (Picea abies) and Sitka (Picea sitchensis) spruce crops at 6 to 20 years after establishment. To identify the causes of this, detailed peat depth/type surveys, foliar analysis and conventional mensuration assessments were carried out across selected areas in both the demonstration and experimental sites. Results suggest that peat depth and aeration is a major factor influencing the productivity of afforested species and that afforestation potential of Norway and Sitka spruce may be limited to shallow peat depths (0.5 to 1.2 m), with other species such as hybrid larch, lodgepole pine, Scots pine and birch being more suitable for planting on deeper peat sites (>1 m deep). These findings contrast with previous recommendations for afforestation of cutaway peatlands in Ireland, but agree with current afforestation practice in Finland. We also suggest that the current nutritional management of established forests may need revision and a third fertilisation may be required to ensure sustained productivity of crops on industrial cutaway peatlands.
How to Cite
Black, K., Keane, M., McNally, G. and Carey, M. (2017) “Effects of peat depth and aeration on species performance in afforested industrial cutaway peatlands.”, Irish Forestry. Available at: https://journal.societyofirishforesters.ie/index.php/forestry/article/view/10816 (Accessed: 5March2024).