Proposal for habitat surveys and condition assessments for blanket bog SACs in counties Galway, Mayo, Sligo, and Donegal

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature (WAN)

In 2021 there were 160 farmer in the WAN results-based agri-environment payment scheme (RBPS) and this increased to over 800 farmers in the in 2022 covering 65,000ha in 8 SACs.

The target area for 2023 is to survey a maximum of 5 of the 11 project sites within the WAN target area. This accounts for c.63,000 ha of blanket bog and associated habitats. The remaining project sites (c.73,000 ha) will be surveyed over 2024 and 2025

The impact of drainage, burning and grazing will also be reported;

This assessment will also report on the restoration potential of the blanket bog and associated habitats.

LIFE IP project (Waters of LIFE)

LIFE Integrated projects 2018
Technical application forms
Part B – technical summary and overall context of the project

EPA has determined that the risk profile of high-status water bodies is different to the general risk profile across water bodies nationally.

In the case of those high-status water bodies which EPA has determined to be At Risk of not meeting their objective under the Water Framework Directive, forestry activity was a significant pressure in 40% of cases, hydromorphological alteration in 34%, agriculture in 28% and peat extraction or disturbance in 13% of cases

Objectives of project

The Waters of LIFE IP will act as a catchment-scale demonstration project to test and validate the effectiveness of implementing locally-tailored ‘best practice’ measures across a range of landscape and land-use management activities typically associated with the catchments of high-status waters.

The project will trial and validate the implementation of measures at the catchment scale across a number of pilot catchments with the view to building national understanding and capacity, optimising approaches for the targeting of measures in critical areas of the catchment, assessing the effectiveness of the approach and using the learnings from the project to inform and support ongoing work across all high-status catchments in the Irish River Basin District.

It will demonstrate the effective implementation of an integrated catchment-based approach for the application of measures to protect and/or restore all waters for which a high-status objective has been identified in Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan.

Summary actions

A.1: Prepare detailed characterisation of HS Catchments (ecology, natural capital value, main pressures, problems)


An initial analysis of classification metrics that have driven High Status Site changes in recent years. This will include sites that have lost HS, those that have improved to HS and sites where status has fluctuated between HS and lower classifications.

An analysis of landscape features, land use intensity, and hydrology that typifies known HS sites.

Identification of significant changes in landscape / land use over the period of analysis.

Comparison of HS changes and landscape feature changes to identify potential drivers of HS. This will include identification of unmonitored potentially HS sites.

– Procurement of external technical support. This should occur within 3 months of completion of task F.1.
– High Status Sites Characterisation Report delivered by 1/12/2020
– Landscapes of HS Sites Report and Unmonitored Sites Potentially at HS Report delivered by 1/12/2020
– Metrics for use in Determining Status Change Report delivered by 1/12/2020.

A.2: Prepare Framework of HS Measures (Best Practice Measures) and guidance


The task will deliver a framework of available measures for protection and restoration of high status catchments along with guidance on design and implementation; environmental parameters targeted and expected trajectories post implementation; estimated costs; synergies with other programmes of measures; cumulative or secondary effects. Through a SWOT analysis of shortlisted measures the Waters of Life project will include an assessment of constraints to implementation, likely acceptability of measure, and established effectiveness.

– Appointment of external technical support. This should occur within 3 months of completion of project management task F.1.
– Comprehensive list of measures for consideration in HS scenarios within 1 month of appointment of technical support.
– Draft Framework of HS Measures document for review within 4 months of appointment of technical support.
– Final Framework of HS Measures delivered by 1/03/2021.

A.3: Select Demonstration Catchments


A Demonstration Catchment Selection Report listing those catchments selected with a range of pressures suitable for measures demonstration will be delivered. This report will set out the Multi-Criteria Analysis used in the selection process for all catchments considered including those eventually shortlisted.
Early engagement with local communities during the process will direct the project to catchments and areas within catchments that will maximise the opportunity for local participation and for successful project outcomes. Details of the engagement process and groups / community members engaged will be set out in the report above.

– A Demonstration catchment Selection Report detailing the selection process and key considerations in final selected catchments. Lessons learnt in effective methods to approach and engage with local communities will be documented. This will be delivered within 15 months of completing action A.1.
– Demonstration catchments selected by 1/03/2022

A.4: Develop HS catchments RBAP scheme


A list of RBAPS ecosystem targets that reflect near natural catchment conditions required to support high status will be prepared by the Waters of Life project and agreed through consultation with farmers and stakeholders. Targets will be set for key relevant parameters essential to supporting high status waters and scheme eligibility criteria agreed.

A scoring system for assessment of results delivery that will allow for incremental achievement of targets will be prepared. The scoring system will reward progression between incremental phases and be agreed with stakeholders.

The Waters of Life project will prepare a payment scheme with payment levels that reflect the quality of results delivered as assessed by the agreed scoring system. Payments must also ensure that lower achievements are adequately rewarded to cover the cost of participation.

– An annotated list of Ecosystem targets with justification for their selection and specific objectives that are to be achieved. To be delivered within 6 months of action A.3 commencement.
– A scoring system for results assessment including details of criteria for evaluation and incremental steps. To be delivered within 9 months of action A.3 commencement.
– A payment scheme that reflects quality of outputs delivered and incentivises farmer performance. To be delivered within 15 months of action A.3 commencement.
– Guidance material to support scheme operation and training of participants and farmers.
– RBAPS including ecosystem targets, a scoring system for results assessment, and a payment scheme reflecting outputs delivered and incentivising farmer performance delivered by 1/03/2022
– Guidance for support scheme operation delivered by 1/03/2022.

A.5: Initial community engagement regarding concrete actions

The action will aim to ensure that measures trials are situated in areas where local communities are informed and supportive of project objectives.
It will provide initial feedback to the Waters of Life project team on measures selection and design.

– Final selection of demonstration catchments within 15 months of completing A.1.
– Report on local community engagement and attitudes to project actions and objectives, and awareness of HS sites within 15 months of completing A.1.
– Initial community engagement re concrete actions completed by 1/03/2022.

A.6: Investigate land ownership (commonage areas)

The Waters of Life project will prepare a map of commonage areas in the demonstration catchments selected and establish the relevant shareholders to permit engagement by the project.

– Identification of shareholders in relevant commonage areas in demonstration catchments. This action will commence in the latter part of the catchment selection task (A.3) and will be completed in the same timeframe.
– Commonage stakeholders in demonstration catchments identified by 1/03/2022

A.7: Secure Licenses / Permissions

This action will deliver a register of pre-commencement requirements for all project actions with specified lead-in times to minimise risk to implementation schedules. The register will be maintained as a live document throughout the project and updated as details of specific tasks are identified and requirements are discharged.

– Register of Pre-commencement Requirements. This action will commence during preparation of the framework of measures task (A.2) and will be continue into the phase of implementation programmes roll-out task (C.7).
– Timely discharge of licence, consents, consultations and permits.
– Licence, consents, consultations and permits discharged by 1/06/2023.

A.8: Review and elaborate a detailed work programme

The action will deliver an objective review of outputs to date and identify any lessons learnt and implications for ongoing Waters of Life project implementation. It will incorporate the findings of this review and the cumulative results to date into a detailed work programme for the next phase of the project.

– Project Interim Review Report to be delivered at the end of the preparatory actions phase and within 3 months of demonstration catchment selection.
– Detailed Project Work Programme – Phase 2. To be delivered within 3 months of demonstration catchment selection.
– Phase 1 and Work Programme-Phase 2 completed by 1/06/2022.

C.1: Catchment Walkover Investigations

The action will deliver 6 catchment walkover investigations that will identify, document and map the areas where significant pressures are present. The walkover investigations will be the basis for detailed site assessments in targeted follow-up investigations (action C.2)

– Initial Catchment Walkover Investigations completed by 1/09/2022.

C.2: Follow-up Catchment Investigations

The action will deliver a series of follow-up investigations that will provide scientific evidence of the nature and extent of pressures in the demonstration catchments and identify key locations for establishment and implementation of measures.

– Detailed catchment follow-up investigations completed by 1/09/2022.

C.3: Catchment strategic management plans


The action will deliver 6 Strategic Catchment Management plans setting out explicit catchment details with relevant mapping including data relating to water status, land use, hydrology, population distribution, pressure types, sources and locations. The plans will provide scientific evidence of the nature and extent of pressures and identify key locations for establishment and implementation of measures. Plans will also set out a programme of monitoring to establish baseline conditions for key specified parameters

– Strategic Catchment Management Plans completed by 1/12/2022.

C.4: Deliver training for agricultural and forestry advisors

The action will deliver a cohort of advisors with specific relevant knowledge to guide farming and forestry operations in HS catchments in a sustainable fashion. Farming advisors will be familiar with the bespoke RBAPS in terms of targets, performance indicators and payments structure. The action will deliver detailed training/capacity building relevant to the needs of national and regional stakeholders in specified sectors.

– Delivery of 5 number training days within six months of establishing locally based catchment teams in F.4.
– Agricultural and farm advisors trained by 1/12/2022.

C.5: Deliver training for farmers, forest operators and relevant practitioners

The actions will deliver a practical training programme to introduce practitioners to the project actions and objectives. The programme will include 2 one-day training events in each of the 5 demonstration catchments (the training will not be required in the control HS catchment).

– Schedule of training events and site visits to representative catchment areas within 3 months of recruiting locally based catchment teams.
– 10 training events to be delivered in demonstration catchments within 9 months of recruiting locally based catchment teams.
– Farmers and practitioners trained by 1/03/2023.

C.6: Prepare implementation plans in agreement with local landowners

The action will deliver integrated, practical and robust programmes for implementation of specified measures in priority catchment areas to sustain HS waters. These plans will be co-developed, agreed with, and informed by landowners and thus secure long term ownership of actions necessary for sustainable land use.

– Implementation plans agreed with landowners by 1/03/2023.

C.7: Implement programmes of measures across all demonstration catchments

The action will deliver an effective measures programme within 5 demonstration catchments. A limited number of measures may be implemented in the control catchment depending on the findings of actions C.1, C.2 and C.3. Monitoring the implementation and performance of measures will afford learning in relation to measures effectiveness and acceptability and any unforeseen consequences. Such learning will inform adaptive responses and revisions to the programme that can be included in future programmes beyond the project demonstration catchments.

– Roll out of programme of measures by 01/10/22.

C.8: Landuser support for measures implementation in demonstration catchments

The action will deliver an effective local measures programme for individual and cumulative pressures within 5 demonstration catchments. Implementation of measures by locally based community members will generate a sense of community custodianship of HS waters and reinforce the inherent value of such areas. It will address a resource gap in remote and sparsely populated catchments.

– Rural Development Scheme Measures Support Teams established by 01/10/2022

D. Monitoring of the impact of the project actions

D.1: Establish environmental monitoring programme

The action will deliver a fit for purpose monitoring programme to detect the impacts of measures being implemented to protect or restore HS waters and within class drift in status. It will inform future policy in relation to such sites and the design of intervention schemes intended to support their protection.

– HS Catchments Monitoring Programme established by 1/09/2022.

D.2: Ongoing environmental/status monitoring and progress reporting

This action will deliver an extensive dataset relating to implementation of measures in HS catchments and an assessment of their efficacy in supporting HS. It will also provide baseline data for the demonstration catchments.

– HS Catchments Monitoring Programme and Reporting implementation by 31/12/2026.
– Commencement of monitoring programme within 3 months of final selection of demonstration catchments
– Quarterly Monitoring Reports throughout the monitoring programme
– Annual Monitoring Reports throughout the monitoring programme.

D.3: Generate community custodianship of HS sites

This action will deliver a comprehensive report on the process of community engagement and inculcation of custodianship of HS waters. A pathway for similar processes nationally will be generated.

– Assessment of the process of community engagement and inculcation of custodianship of HS waters delivered by 31/12/2026.
– Design of community engagement/facilitation/co-design method within 3 months of selection of demonstration catchments
– Carrying out of 1st cycle within 8 months of selection of demonstration catchments
– Report on 1st cycle within 9 months of selection of demonstration catchments
– Carrying out of 2nd cycle in 6 HS catchments in final year of the project
– Summary report on action research and recommendations based on lessons learned.

Project Management Group:

The DHPLG, as Co-ordinating Beneficiary, with the eight Associated Beneficiaries – Local Authorities (including LAWPro – Local Authority Waters Programme), the EPA, DAFM, the Forest Service (FS-DAFM), the NPWS, the OPW, Teagasc (the Agriculture and Food Development Authority) and Coillte (the State Forestry Body) together with representatives of participating stakeholders for example farmers/forest owners, will make up the Project Management Group.

Key staff members from all nine Beneficiaries have worked closely in the preparation of this project application and will meet to formally establish the Project Management Group immediately if this LIFE-IP funding application is successful. The Project Management Group will develop an overarching project plan and specify the requirements, tasks and deliverables for the procurement of the Project Team.

The Project Management Group will manage the Project Team on an ongoing basis, in terms of project planning, implementation, management and monitoring. To that end, the Project Management Group will utilise a variety of staff members with key skill sets from each Beneficiary, as and when required. It is expected that there will be at least one Project Management Group meeting per year, the frequency and subject of Project Management Group meetings will be task driven.

The Project Leader will report regularly to the Project Management Group, with other Project Team members reporting and attending meetings as and when required.

Project Team:

A dedicated, multi-disciplinary, four person core Waters of Life Project Team comprising a Project Team Leader, Project Scientific Advisor, Project GIS/data Advisor and Project Administrator will be appointed by the Co-ordinating Beneficiary for the duration of the project. Each of the Project core Team members will be full time (fixed-term temporary, whole-time contracts) with the exception of the Project Administrator, who will work half time. The core team will be based in a dedicated project office. Project Catchment Scientist/Ecologists will be engaged in the project on a regional basis at the phase 2 implementation stage within the selected catchments. The regional Catchment Scientist/Ecologists will be placed in offices in the selected demonstration catchments.

F.2: Development of the project data management systems

In the early stages of the project, the Project Team will establish an appropriate data management system for the project. The system will be used to manage all project data, including project reports, publications, financial information, measures implementation plans and other data. The data management system will allow information to be easily stored, retrieved, updated and analysed by the Project Team throughout the project.

The Waters of Life Project will generate a significant amount of practical information on the management of farms and forests and the implementation and monitoring of concrete High Status actions on project sites. This information will have a broad spatial, temporal and thematic spread and will be captured in Geographic Information System (GIS) and other relevant formats.

All data generated but the project, including supporting assessments of high status sites trends and pressures will be input to the project database.

This system will be compatible with the Co-ordinating Beneficiaries existing data management and GIS systems. These databases will be continually updated and added to by the Project Team throughout the duration of the project.

This activity will be conducted by the core project team and appropriate scientific support, located within the regional offices.

This action will be continual from the start of the project on until the end of the project.

The Waters of Life will generate significant quantities of information, reports and data in a number of formats. A readily accessible integrated data management system is necessary to securely store these data and to maximise their potential use. The system will allow data to be easily stored, retrieved, updated and analysed by the Project Team throughout the project.

The Geographic Information System will be the key, central hub to ensure information generated by the preparatory, the concrete implementation and the monitoring actions (A, C and D Actions) are stored and used effectively. GIS are commonly used in catchment management, where mapping of the location and extent of features is required, as well as the integration of many different data sets. The GIS will be used to identify critical source areas for sediment and nutrient losses that are key drivers of the impacts on high status sites and also their associated water-dependant protected species and habitats.

The GIS will also allow the rapid production of maps for project sites. Maps are a key, efficient tool in measures implementation planning. The GIS will also be very important in increasing public awareness and understanding of High Status and the project, in the dissemination of project results (E Actions), and in reporting (F Actions).

F.3: Project and Financial Management and Reporting (including Annual reports, End of Project Report and Recommendations, and independent audit)


Early establishment of a detailed monitoring programme to measure project progress;
An end of project report;
Non- technical summary project report;
An independent financial audit of the Waters of Life project – Auditor’s report

– End of Project Reporting completed including Final Audit Report by 31/12/2026.

Download full project details here:

How is hydromorphology addressed in river conservation projects, eg in this example within the EU funded LIFE projects?

Hydromorphology is a relatively new discipline which is described in the Water Framework Directive. It refers to the physical character of the river and includes the flow of water in the river, the course the river takes or the form and shape of the river channel.

It stems from the term ‘fluvial geomorphology’, a subject that focuses on the processes of water and sediment movement and the features that these processes create in a river such as pools, riffles and glides. These processes and features create and maintain habitats for invertebrates, fish and plants.

Hydromorphology pressures are anything that impacts negatively on the form or flow of the a river, for example: weirs and dams which may impede fish passage; drainage works which straighten and deepen the channel and thereby damage important habitat features for aquatic species and soil or bank erosion which can cause siltation of the river bed.

Changes to the hydromorphological characteristics of surface waters is estimated to be a significant pressure in almost 29% of high status objective waterbodies that are At Risk of not meeting their environmental objectives. It is the most prevalent significant pressure within high surface objective water bodies.

Two of the catchments selected within the €20 million Waters of LIFE project deal with hydromorphology

River name: The Shournagh

Water Framework Directive Reference: Lee SC 060

Location: Co Cork (near Tower and Blarney)

Significant Pressures: Agriculture, Hydromorphology, domestic wastewater, urban runoff, OPW Area for Action

River name: The Awbeg

Water Framework Directive Reference: Blackwater SC 060

Location: Co. Cork (Near Kanturk)

Significant Pressures: Agriculture, Hydromorphology

LIFE Project Final Report: BurrenLIFE


Covering the project activities from 01.09.2004 to 31.01.2010

Reporting Date: 30.04.2010


Farming for Conservation in the Burren

Project location Burren, County Clare, Ireland
Project start date: 01/09/2004
Project end date: 31/01/2010
Total Project duration (in months) 65 months
Total budget €2, 230, 487
EC contribution: €1, 672, 865
(%) of total costs 75%
(%) of eligible costs 75%

Name Beneficiary: National Parks and Wildlife Service -Dept. of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government

Final Report:

LIFE Project: Restoring Active Blanket Bog in Ireland

LIFE Project Number: LIFE02 NAT/IRL/8490

Covering the project activities from 01.07.2002 (project starting date) to 31.12.2007

Reporting Date: 31/03/2008

Data Project
Project location Ireland
Project start date: 01/07/2002
Project end date: 31/12/2007
Total Project duration (in months): 66 months
Total budget €4,195,693
EC contribution: €3,146,770
(%) of total costs 75%
(%) of eligible costs 75%
Beneficiary: Coillte Teoranta [The Irish Forestry Board]

The principal project objectives were to restore up to 1,989.0ha of blanket bog on 20 sites to a favourable conservation status and, in particular, to extend the area of blanket bog by means of tree removal, so that the area free from the effects of afforestation would be enlarged by up to 982.27ha thereby increasing the likelihood of recolonisation with ANNEX 1 habitat type species. This objective was to be further facilitated by the blocking of drains on up to 1,556.7ha of cleared or open bog areas.

Additional project objectives were to reverse the effects of overgrazing through the fencing of 555.4 of open bog areas, and to remove naturally regenerated trees from open bog areas on an as required basis. Broader objectives were to demonstrate and interpret the techniques of bogland restoration on afforested sites, principally tree removal and drain blocking, to as wide as possible an audience but particularly to the foresters who are managing these areas and to increase current knowledge in the area of afforested bogland restoration through the dissemination of project results in Ireland and internationally.

Final report:

Waters of LIFE project (Euro20m across six catchments)

The total budget under this LIFE Integrated project is €20,369,805 of which €9,500,000 has been committed by the European Union

Lee_SC_060 Sub Catchment (Shournagh)

The sub catchment has an area of approximately 130km2.  Three of the five sub basins which make up the sub catchment have a high status objective, with the other two inputting into these and so potentially impacting on their status.

None of the three high status objective water bodies in this sub catchment are currently meeting their objective: one has fallen to good status and two to moderate status in the last monitoring cycle.  All three are considered to be at risk of not meeting their objectives under the River Basin Management Plan.

The significant pressures which have been identified on these water bodies are: agriculture, hydromorphology, urban waste water, domestic waste water and urban runoff.

Soils in this catchment are free draining, which is somewhat unusual in the context of high status objective rivers.  The pollution impact potential (PIP) maps produced by the EPA show very high PIP for nitrate and very low PIP for phosphorus.

Blackwater_SC_060 Sub Catchment (Awbeg)

This is the sub catchment of a river called the Awbeg (but not the one that flows through Buttevant) which rises to the South of Liscarroll in Co. Cork and flows Southwards to join the main channel of the Blackwater East of Banteer also in Co. Cork.

The catchment has an area of approx. 80km².  Both the water bodies that make up the demonstration catchment have a high status objective. However, one has fallen to good status for the last two monitoring cycles, the other is not monitored, but has recently been assigned a predicted status of high by the EPA.

The geology in the area is quite mixed consisting of sandstone, mudstone and karst areas. Large areas have locally and regionally important aquifers.  Soil drainage is also mixed with both well and poorly draining areas and generally acid mineral soils. Diffuse pollution pathways are similarly mixed with surface runoff in poorly draining areas, shallow to deep subsurface flow in areas of well draining soils depending on the fracturing of bedrock or presence of karst and potential for direct inputs via karst features.

The significant pressures in this area are agriculture and hydromorphology. The catchment has a mix of areas which are considered high pollution impact for both phosphorus and nitrate.

Suck_SC_020 Catchment (The Island River)

The sub catchment has an area of approximately 145km2. Of the seven water bodies in this sub catchment, only one has a high status objective. However, five of the remaining are upstream of this waterbody and therefore activities in these sub basins have the potential to impact on it.  The high status objective waterbody is currently failing to meet its objective and has fallen to good status in the last two monitoring cycles.  It is considered to be at risk of failing to meet the high status objective which has been set for it in the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland.

The significant pressure on the high status objective water body is reported as urban waste water, but agriculture and hydromorphology are significant pressures in some of the upstream waterbodies.

There are areas of high pollution impact for phosphorus in the sub catchment along with a high proportion of peat soils.

Graney_SC_010 Sub Catchment

Of the eight water bodies in the Graney_010 sub catchment only three have a high status objective and only one is currently meeting its objective. The other two have fallen to good status and are considered to be failing to meet their objective under the River Basin Management Plan.

Blanket peat mainly overlies the sedimentary geology in this catchment. It is these peatlands that help regulate climate, control and purify water flows as well as supporting terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity. However, protection and in some instances, restoration is required to maintain the quality of these services.

The significant pressures in the catchment are forestry and agriculture. This catchment was chosen in consultation with Coillte and the Forest Service as there is likely to be significant forestry activity in the area during the life of the project.  This will allow appropriate management strategies for high status areas to be developed.

Avonmore_SC_010 sub catchment

The sub catchment has an area of 141km2 and is made up of six water bodies.  It captures all the streams, rivers and lakes that form headwaters to the Avonmore River. It starts in northeast parts of the Wicklow Mountains with Cloghoge and Inchavore Rivers that flow through Lough Tay and Lough Dan to form the Avonmore River. The river then flows south through Annamoe village down to Laragh village, where it meets Glenmacnass River that also rose in the Wicklow Mountains.

Two of the water bodies that make up the sub catchment are are Blue Dot rivers: Avonmore_010 and Avonmore_020, and have a high status objective. Both have fallen to good status and are considered to be at risk of not meeting their objective under the River Basin Management Plan.  Historically these rivers have been at high ecological status which means they have the potential to achieve and maintain high conditions. With the change down to good ecological status we know that these rivers are at stress and need action for the restoration. However, it should also be noted that a third waterbody in the sub catchment has improved to high status and has been high during two monitoring cycles.

The significant pressures in the catchment are forestry and agriculture. This catchment was chosen in consultation with Coillte and the Forest Service as there is likely to be significant forestry activity in the area during the life of the project and will allow appropriate management strategies for high status areas to be developed.

Note: the Sheen is flagged by the project not at risk, and is included as a control

Sheen_SC_010 Sub Catchment

This sub catchment has an area of 100.5 km2.  There are four waterbodies that make up the Sheen_SC_010 sub catchment, three of which have been given a high-status objective under the Water Framework Directive. It is important that high status is maintained and that there is no decline in water quality or status.  The majority of the sub catchment is at high status and is considered to be not at risk of failing to meet its River Basin Management Plan objective.

The soil type across most of the sub catchment is poorly draining peat and mineral soils, overlying relatively poorly productive bedrock. Better draining soils can be found on the lower slopes and lower lying areas in the river valleys of the Sheen River and its tributaries.

As part of the Waters of LIFE Project, the Sheen River sub catchment has been chosen as a ‘control’ catchment and will be used to explore the protect function.  The focus here will be on understanding how high status is currently being maintained and to identify any potential threats to water quality and status through field surveys and monitoring.  In this sub catchment, the project will: monitor water quality; monitor land use change and; raise awareness of the importance of high status water bodies.

Results Based Payment Scheme for WaterLANDS project

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature

LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is a 9-year project Coordinated by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage aimed at conservation and management of Ireland’s Natura 2000 network, with a special focus on blanket bog. The project covers over 250,000ha of Natura 2000 lands, comprising primarily blanket bogs and associated peatland habitats. In many cases lands contiguous with, but outside of, the Natura 2000 network provide an essential function in supporting the achievement of the Conservation Objectives of the sites themselves.

The primary target of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is delivery of the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) for Ireland in general, and blanket bog specifically. The project aims to deliver benefits to associated habitats, species and local communities, in addition to being significantly climate and water quality related. Among other activities, the project is demonstrating the Results-Based Payment Scheme (RBPS) approach and developing its roll-out to deliver conservation actions on the ground. The RBPS principles that have been developed and put into practice in similar programmes (e.g. Burren Programme; Pearl Mussel Project EIP) are being used and adapted to work with and for the farmers of the northwest of Ireland.

Another key remit of LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature is the mobilisation of complementary funding for associated activities to conserve and restore peatlands. As part of this remit, LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature are a partner on a new Horizon 2020 funded project, WaterLANDS. WaterLANDS is a five-year project (2021-2026; budget €23.6m) which aims to enable an upscaling of the restoration of wetlands across Europe. LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature are responsible for one of the six WaterLANDS project ‘Action Sites’ at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC.

In LIFE IP Wild Atlantic Nature the work on developing RBPS was brought forward to 2021/2022 (from original proposal to commence in 2024) to ensure full preparation for the new CAP in 2023, with the support and advice of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine (DAFM), who are an Associated Beneficiary on the LIFE project. It is expected that from 2023 the RBPS model will be delivered for farmers in the project areas via the CAP Agri-Environment, Climate Measures (AECMs), with full implementation due in January 2023.

The RBPS model used in Wild Atlantic Nature is a similar model that we are proposing to implement in the WaterLANDS project at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC in order to align policy and demonstrate best practice in wetland restoration. We envisage that this site would be used as a demonstrator for RBPS roll-out and associated restoration/conservation work. It is expected that testing and demonstrating an RBPS as proposed in WaterLANDS will deliver benefits for science, policy and practice and will generate significant new learning and knowledge, as well as providing concrete recommendations for wetland restoration, through CAP and otherwise. Indeed the European Court of Auditors call for member states to go the direction of using the RBPS approach to achieve higher environmental ambition.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage currently seek a contractor to coordinate a RBPS/restoration actions hybrid pilot as part of the WaterLANDS ‘Action Site’ at Cuilcagh-Anierin SAC. This role involves delivering the RBPS pilot in 2022, coordinating conservation and restoration actions from 2023-2026, monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of actions and the potential for upscaling, liaising with participant farmers, farm advisors and local community groups and working closely with the WaterLANDS project team to deliver on the project objectives across several work packages. Some communication, dissemination and exploitation activities also form part of the role. WaterLANDS is funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under Grant Agreement number 101036484.

Payments will depend on satisfactory progress with the following deliverables to the Wild Atlantic Nature project manager or other appointed team member:
Regular short update reports to the project team;
Regular update meeting with the Wild Atlantic Nature project manager;
Successful recruitment of RBPS participants (approx. 200 farmers);
Contributions, where required, to Work Packages 2 (Engaging Communities), 3 (Aligning Governance, and 4 (Mobilising Finance) of WaterLANDS as RBPS progresses
Integrate co-created best-practice (WP5) to optimise application of measures.
Successful undertaking of RBPS advisor and farmer training;
Coordination of RBPS surveying and monitoring programme;
Verification of RBPS farm scores;
Administration of farmer payments;
Administration of supporting actions and evaluation of their efficacy;
Liaison with farmers and agricultural advisors;
Education and liaison with local communities;
Data collection, analysis and reporting documents as required by WaterLANDS Task and Work Package Leads;
Feeding into Key Performance Indicators for Wild Atlantic Nature LIFE IP complementary funding projects;
Monitoring report on efficacy of RBPS & supporting actions;
Preparation of draft guidance documents for partners, farmers and advisors on:
o Overall RBPS project
o Habitat scoring
o Supporting actions
o Finance opportunities and governance arrangements
o Engaging communities

Milestones: RBPS delivered for approx. 200 farmers (December 2022)