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WETSCAPES Conference — Understanding the ecology of restored fen peatlands for protection and sustainable use

10th September 2019   -   13th September 2019
Rostock, Germany


Peatlands cover only 3 % of the land surface worldwide but with some 450 gigatonnes of carbon they contain substantially more than the carbon stock in the entire forest biomass of the world. Thus, peatlands are the most effective terrestrial carbon stock on our globe. Globally, wetlands are strongly impacted by humans. Many peatlands have been artificially drained for agricultural and forestry purposes, or peat extraction. In Europe, for instance, half of the total peatland area has been artificially drained. Drainage leads to decomposition and compaction oft he peat soil, and, thus, to subsidence. Degradation of peat may continue for decades. Initially, drained peatlands provide favourable conditions for agriculture, but conditions deteriorate and eventually, long-term drained peatlands can be hardly used for agriculture. Despite their minor surface area, artificially drained peatlands cause disproportionally high CO2 emissions: they are responsible for nearly 5% of the world’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions (2 gigatonnes CO2 per year). There is, however, more to wetlands than carbon storage. Wetlands function as buffer for water and compound fluxes and make landscapes react resilient upon extreme weather and fertilizer scenarios. Habitat function is another important aspect of wetlands. Rewetting can solve many of the problems related to the drainage of peatlands but is rarely an implemented, often because the loss of agricultural land is seen as inevitable. New management approaches in which peatland rewetting is combined with agriculture or forestry, the so called -paludiculture-, can be an alternative. A mosaic of paludiculturally used peatlands with peatlands restored primarily for nature conservation purposes is the future multifunctional and sustainable peatland landscape - the vision of -WETSCAPES-. In WETSCAPES, in contrast to past land use approaches, the water is kept in the landscape, thus facilitating carbon storage, nutrient retention, climate regulation, and habitat function. As we are just at the beginning of implementing paludicultures, understanding of the biogeochemistry and ecology of these novel ecosystems is still largely lacking. A better understanding of the ecosystem functioning und the underlying processes is the basis for a sustainable use of wet landscapes.