Landslide assessment: provision of a detailed scientific assessment of peat land landslides in Leitrim, Kerry and Donegal

Tender date, May 2021

Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications

In 2020 a number of major upland peatland (blanket bog) landslides occurred across Ireland, most notably on Shass Mountain in the Boleybrack Mountain Special Area of Conservation (SAC), site code IE002032, near Drumkeeran in County Leitrim; in Meenbog, near Ballybofey in County Donegal and at Mt Eagle, near Castleisland in Co. Kerry which affected part of Mount Eagle Bog NHA (Site Code 002449). These failures have significantly impacted on the integrity of the peatland habitats, the
quality of downstream watercourses and their aquatic ecology and in the case of Shass Mountain, resulted in significant damage to agricultural land, public infrastructure and private property.

They have impacted on areas designated, under international and national legislation, specifically to contribute to the protection of Ireland’s blanket bog biodiversity resource. The landsides thereby have a range of implications, including financial, for local authorities, government departments and local landowners. Whilst these failures appear to be associated with intense rainfall events, the role of land use change in altering peatland properties and potentially increasing landslide susceptibility remains understudied. Accordingly, GSI and NPWS are now collaborating on commissioning a project to address this.

The purpose of this RFT is to procure environmental science and engineering consultancy support to examine the recent peatland landslide events in Donegal, Leitrim and Kerry.

The project will seek to characterise the environmental setting of the landslides, determine the main contributing factors to the failures and further determine any shared conditions that may identify susceptibility in additional areas of interest to GSI and NPWS (as described in this RFT). This will also include an examination of relevant environmental and anthropologic factors.

It should be noted that some of the important applications of the results of this assessment may be used to help inform the improvement of current guidance and policy documentation on peatland management (relating to peatland failures and peatland stability) produced by NPWS and GSI including the potential to update the National Landslide Susceptibility Map, to assist Local Authorities and other related bodies concerned with planning and land use.

The main objectives of this project are:

– Assess and analyse the main environmental factors that contributed to the 3 major peatland failures recorded in Ireland in 2020 and assess whether insights from these factors can be used to identify susceptible areas in 3 additional sites of interest to GSI and NPWS.
– Identify areas where key data for such an assessment are lacking and source or record/measure if feasible either via field visits or from other organisations (cost dependant). If alternative comparable control sites have more relevant available data substitution of suitable control sites may be proposed by tenderers though cost should be on a par with original sites and final decision on such sites will be by GSI/NPWS;
– Assess the potential to update the National Landslide Susceptibility Map and document this via a technical note.
– Produce a short technical note based on a review of existing environmental guidance related to developments proposed on or adjacent to blanket bogs designated as SAC and NHA and critically evaluate the evidence base, rationale and analyses used in classifying potential susceptibility to peatland failure associated with any such developments; critically review recommendations and scientific rationale given on buffering distances to prevent impacts to watercourses; and on quantification of likely effects on carbon stores and on carbon sequestration and GHG emissions and other key peatland environmental parameters.
– Produce a technical advisory note that will assist planning authorities and other interested parties in the appraisal of developments, or other land use changes, proposed in peatland areas from a landslide susceptibility perspective.

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