The last meeting of the Care-Peat project took place on 4 and 5 February 2020 in Deurne, the Netherlands, with the support of Province of North Brabant. After a productive project meeting, in which the progress and future activities of the project were discussed, the Care-Peat partners also welcomed external participants for the public part of the workshop which would cover the afternoon of 4 and the morning of 5 February.
It kicked off with a session highlighting the valuable tools and methods used in peatland conservation. It was an interesting workshop, focusing on scientific insights gained from the Care-Peat and Carbon Connects projects.
Scientific workshop about the Care-Peat pilots and cross-border scientific cooperation
To kick off the workshop, Adrien Jacotot from the University of Orleans elaborated on what, how, where and when measurements are being taken in the Care-Peat project. Through his seminar, insights were given in the chamber technique used for carbon measurements, as well as in the processes and elements measured. Furthermore, it was discussed where and when measurements are taken in the Care-Peat project and why, as well as what will be done with the collected data. In this way, several scientific methods were brought under attention and there was room for discussing the merits and benefits.
Peatland conservation and restoration assessments, however, do not stop at measurements. Laurent André from the BRGM – French Geological Survey, talked about the modelling approach used in the Care-Peat project. The aim is to create a model adapted to the peatland scale to estimate carbon balance, as well as a decision support tool for peatland managers to choose the best restoration option for their sites.
To know if and how restoration of peatlands is possible, a lot of work has to be conducted in preparation of this. With the Care-Peat pilot sites in mind, Chris Field from Manchester Metropolitan University explained how important background information was gathered. Work consisted of field methods leading to an overview of basic vegetation and calculations of Ellenberg indices, followed by laboratory methods to assess nutrients and other important soil elements and the gathering of earth observation data with the help of drones. It was then laid out how all of this data streamlined into nice maps of the pilot sites, which provide a baseline for next steps.
The Care-Peat related presentations provided a window to look at on-the-ground and current peatland restoration and conservation efforts. The in-depth presentations made way for even more detailed questions, providing lively discussions between the various guests of the workshop, among which Valentina Sechi from the Carbon Connects project.
Valentina Sechi (Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences) broadened the topics of the day by discussing current happenings in the Carbon Connects project. She introduced the new site emission tool (SET), created through Carbon Connects. This tool will provide an easy way to estimate greenhouse gas emissions after rewetting. While the tool is still under development, the prospect of having such a simple tool was met with enthusiasm as it could improve carbon-related land management. She ended her talk with highlighting the synergies between Care-Peat and Carbon Connects and the important information the Care-Peat case-studies could provide for better accuracy of the Carbon Connect’s SET.
Interactive discussion on transnational scientific cooperation
One of the goals set within the Care-Peat project is setting up a Transnational research group on peatland restoration and carbon sequestration. The initiative on this shall be taken by the research partners in the project. The idea is to engage with the different knowledge institutes and research groups all across North-West Europe and invite them to take part in this group to exchange knowledge and to jointly develop research programmes. The workshop in Deurne provided an excellent opportunity to start the discussion on this topic as several partners of the Carbon Connects project were present, including the Van Hall Larenstein University, as well as some other international projects (i.e LIFE Peat Restore and Pennine Peat LIFE).
The discussion led to the following conclusions about the scope and focus of this group:
The first step that needs to be taken is to be clear on what the group should aim to achieve. There are other already functioning groups operating and we should not try to ‘reinvent the wheel’, but align with what’s there and seek for cooperation and synergy. Some examples of already existing groups are: Greifswald Mire Centre and International Mire Conservation Group (IMCG). Additional groups should be identified.
The group to be set up by Eurosite under the Care-Peat project should try to bring all of the existing groups together, or more specifically, to bring together researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Such an interdisciplinary group could be more powerful than the individual groups separately and could have more influence on European policy.
The group should not only focus on carbon, but also on biodiversity and other restoration work, reach out to various stakeholders (e.g. farmers) and help to make science applicable and translate knowledge into action. The group should aim to find a common methodology of what rewetting wetlands means for carbon and biodiversity - based on the quadruple helix model: business, public, academic and community - to bring together the available knowledge and find the best way to quantify and acknowledge what the value of peatlands is in terms of climate change, water retention etc. The group should also try to gather some specific numerical evidence to support the claims of benefits, but not focus just on the numbers.
The way forward could be to develop a working group with representatives across the five countries of North-West Europe. We need a commitment from these people to make sure that we have the capacity to develop research on who’s out there, who’s interested and what can be done together. It is possible to start with the Carbon Connects, Care-Peat and other projects already in the Eurosite Peatland Restoration and Management Group and work towards getting other European projects involved under one umbrella, while broadening the scope of this group.
Once created, such a group could be brought under the auspice of the UNEP’s Global Peatland Initiative (GPI) as a European wide group. Furthermore, the group should also align its own goals with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and EU policy. Finally, connections should be sought with the IUCN Peatland Code and efforts should be undertaken to prepare a joint contribution to the Climate COP which will be held in Glasgow towards the end of 2020.
Several workshop participants have volunteered to support the development of this group (NUI Galway, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, North Pennine AONB). While the Care-Peat project will enable us to kick-start and form the group, Eurosite as the established European network with a functioning secretariat, can provide long term logistical support to keep the group going once established, including fundraising for new projects. Everyone who is interested in this group will be able to join the Eurosite Network and actively participate.
The day ended with a nice get-together followed by a tasteful dinner at the old monastery hotel Willibrordhaeghe, during which the relaxed atmosphere provided participants with the opportunity to get to know each other and exchange ideas about the day’s topics.
The second day of the workshop took place at Natuurpoort de Peel and consisted of presentations and interactive discussions on socio-economic models to promote peatland restoration, as well as a site visit to the beautiful, yet domesticized landscape of the Deurnsche Peel-Mariapeel. After a short bus ride through the Dutch farmer’s landscape, the group sat down in an old agricultural business now transformed to a beautiful wooden catering industry. After a quick look-around, Niall Ó Brolcháin (Insight – National University of Ireland Galway) filled the room by introducing his plans for the socio-economics workshop.
Policy workshop about business cases for peatland restoration
The workshop session on business cases for peatland restoration was an opportunity to present and discuss the five business cases the NUI Galway is developing. The other Care-Peat partners were asked to provide case study examples for different business cases as well.
The five business cases were the following:
Carbon Credits: The Care-Peat project will encourage the establishment of Carbon Credit schemes in each of the participating countries. In these schemes, reliable carbon certificates are developed so that peatland rewetting can be financed on the voluntary carbon market.
A carbon credit is a generic term for any tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas.
Blue Credits: A proposal for Blue Credits is being developed in partnership with Carbon Connects, to improve regional effectiveness within the scope of the Care-Peat objectives. Better management practices can help protect the storage and quality of water and the ability of wetlands to function properly and to store both water and carbon.
Carbon Locking: This is a theoretical business case for low carbon substrate materials. Digging out of material is necessary to revitalise degraded peatland areas. Substrate materials that are obtained in this way can be used for different purposes (e.g. to strengthen waterfronts). Further applications for this kind of substrate still need to be tested.
Substrate is a term used in materials science to describe the base material on which processing is conducted to produce new layers of material such as deposited coatings.
Carbon Farming, Paludiculture: A pilot Sphagnum farm will be established by Care-Peat on existing farmland in the UK. A bespoke model for the social and economic impact of the farm will be developed based on reviewing related carbon standards and case studies of payments for ecosystem services.
Sphagnum farming is the cultivation of peat moss (Sphagnum) aiming for the production and harvest of peat moss biomass. For this purpose the Sphagnum is cultivated in order to gain renewable raw material for the production of horticultural growing media.
Renewable Energy Co-location: Theoretical business case for using renewable energy sources to fund the restoration of peatlands. The practice of turf cutting and burning by private citizens is still practiced in Europe. To phase this out and to give those with traditional turbary rights a viable alternative, we are developing a business model to explore the installation of renewable energy generation co-located with functional peatland wetlands.
Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as solar, wind and biomass.
Site visit to Deurnsche Peel-Mariapeel
While the business cases were still talked about over a short coffee & tea break, the sun had been pushing through the clouds. Finally, everyone was getting excited about the site visit. Gert-Jan van Duinen (Bargerveen Foundation/Radboud University Nijmegen) introduced us to the area by guiding us through his presentation of the history and current state of the Deurnsche Peel-Mariapeel. After a short introduction of how the area came to be, the story quickly turned towards a story of degradation and restoration. Due to desiccation and nitrogen deposition, the area changed following which a project started on the investigation of key processes in effective restoration and conservation of Dutch raised bog remnants in 1998. Several rewetting strategies were discussed, as well as the underlying principles and the effects on flora and fauna with a specific focus on the site of the visit. Since the area is a heavily used area, the interesting concept of paludiculture was brought up as a way to sustainably use the area, allowing farmers to grow crops on wet peat soil supported by the slogan “if you need to use them, use them wet!”. The ins and outs of paludiculture were presented along with several pilots in the Netherlands, providing an introduction to our site visit, an area already partly rewetted that provides good potential for this way of growing crops.
After the presentation the participants left for the site visit. In suits and (almost) muddy boots, everyone took off on a nice hike around the area, to only, after some meters, already come to a halt and get the question engines running. With the sun in our backs and soft soil under our feet we spent our time hearing about the issues and solutions in the area, and how the project came to be. Lively discussions followed about the nature of the work, the people involved and the role of stakeholder groups. At the end of the day, so many questions were asked and topics were discussed that the group got to see merely a small part of the area, providing a good reason for people to come back next time! All in all, the Care-Peat workshop was a success. With sun during a field visit in the Netherlands, what else could you expect!