The uniqueness of Clara has been confirmed this week, thanks to the discovery of a rare moss that was presumed to be extinct in Ireland.
Ecologist Dr George Smith made the discovery at Clara Bog prior to a workshop he facilitated at Clara Bog Visitor Centre last month.
Last seen in Ireland in 1960, and only ever on four other raised bogs in Ireland, waved fork-moss - or Dicranum undulatum - was thought to be extinct in Ireland due to the damage caused to raised bogs as a result of turf cutting.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan welcomed the discovery this week, saying Clara Bog and others like it should be considered “Ireland’s rainforests in miniature” because of the rare moss species found on them. He also emphasised how the bog must be protected for future generations.
“The fact that waved fork-moss has been re-found gives us a second chance to conserve a species we thought was extinct,” Dr Smith said.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around very often. The fact that it’s in Clara Bog makes the job of conservation a little easier, as the bog is a state-owned nature reserve and is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It may be that the work blocking drains and rewetting the bog that has already happened there is responsible for the survival of waved-fork moss.”
The ecologist described the moss as a perfect example of the biodiversity that can be lost if we fail to conserve and restore raised bogs.
“Waved fork-moss and other bog specialists can only survive on wet, intact bogs, which are rapidly vanishing from the Irish landscape,” he said. “The National Raised Bog Special Areas of Conservation Management Plan and the National Peatlands Strategy, soon to be finalised, may give us a second chance to conserve our raised bog resource. But they will only be up to the task if they are robust and properly implemented. We won’t have many more chances.”
District conservation officer with the National Parks and Wildlife Service Ciara Flynn told the Offaly Independent she’s delighted with the new find.
“It just shows that Clara is a very unique site,” she said. “It’s one of the best surviving intact raised bogs in the country. That’s why such rare things are found on it.”