Peatlands: our natural allies in the fight against climate change

Image author: Bjorn Robroek

Spring, to us, always indicates the start of a new sampling campaign to the Store Mosse National Park, the largest expanse of peatlands in Southern Sweden. Over a decade we run a plant ecological experiment in this fantastic peatland complex. The Store Mosse NP with its beauty and variety in ecosystems also illustrates what we have lost in the Netherlands and many other European countries. The protected landscape covers just under 77 square kilometres of bog, fen, lake, forest and pasture landscape, where many species like moose, golden plover, crane, curlew, and recently also the wolf find their home; not to speak of the many plants that grow in the park. For our work, we are mostly interested in the peat moss-dominated bogs that covers have slowly filled the open waters more than 7000 years ago, and have since slowly built a peat soil that is now up to meters thick. Hence, these soils – meter by meter – store more carbon per area than any other terrestrial ecosystem and, if in good condition, these ecosystems are out natural allies in the fight to climate change. If in good condition indeed; in many European countries, however, peatlands have been drained, cut, and transformed into agricultural lands by which they lost their important carbon-sink function. Many efforts have been put into restoration and conservation of the small remnants, but the beautiful landscapes that we see in the Store Mosse NP remains far out of reach… yet! Bold political choices, however, can boost the return of these majestic landscapes. Choices where we re-invent our agricultural practices. Practices that align with the landscape and where large-scale wetlands find their place. So yes, we agree with the current Dutch incentive to re-calibrate Natura 2000 areas. But opposite to their thought, however, they should be larger and put to the fore when implementing socio-economic activities.

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