Across Germany, peatland soils are being drained for agricultural use - with far-reaching consequences for the climate, the water balance and biodiversity. To enable ecologically and economically sustainable rewetting, new value chains must be tested and established. To this end, the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy and four other project partners, including the GFZ, today received the funding notification for the WetNetBB project from the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Food, Cem Özdemir. With this research, demonstration and networking project, the project partners will re-wet demonstration areas in four Brandenburg model regions over the next 9 years, test new methods for managing these areas and establish innovative value chains.
Fens bind large amounts of CO2 when wet. For intensive agricultural use with efficient, heavy technology, peatlands were last drained extensively and profoundly around the 1970s. In Brandenburg alone, 186,000 ha of bog and fen land are currently in agricultural use. Due to the lack of water, atmospheric oxygen reaches the carbon bound in the peat and carbon dioxide is released. The peat decomposes, the soil loses mass, moor-specific flora and fauna are lost and the landscapes can no longer hold water. However, these processes can be stopped by rewetting.
In order for such a transformation through rewetting to succeed sustainably - both economically and ecologically - peatland use must be rethought. With the project "WetNetBB - Management and Biomass Utilisation of Wet Fens: Network of model and demonstration projects in peatland regions of Brandenburg", the project partners want to rewet demonstration areas in four regions of Brandenburg, test existing and new methods for the agricultural use of these areas and establish new, attractive value chains.
GFZ will monitor carbon dioxide and methane emissions from peatlands
In its sub-project, the German Research Centre for Geosciences will monitor the effects of the implemented measures on carbon dioxide and methane emissions. "While the release of carbon dioxide should be greatly reduced with the rewetting of the fens, we have to assume that a certain amount of methane will be emitted under wet conditions," expects Torsten Sachs, who is carrying out the greenhouse gas monitoring with his working group. Although methane has a stronger effect on the warming of the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide, it remains there for a much shorter time. "How much, on balance, the climate impact of an area is reduced depends on the ratio of additional methane emissions to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions," Torsten Sachs continues.
The so-called eddy covariance is used to continuously record these emissions. This is a micrometeorological method based on fast wind and gas concentration measurements, which is used worldwide as the "gold standard" for determining the heat and material exchange between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere. At the GFZ, this method has been established for over ten years in various landscapes ranging from Arctic permafrost to agricultural areas and already rewetted moors in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Cooperation with regional actors
The collaborative partners will create a network of model and demonstration projects together with regional actors. In addition to accompanying research on environmental parameters such as climate-relevant emissions, biodiversity and water balance, the researchers will focus on the socio-economic dimension, thereby transferring findings, processes and value chains into practice and advancing sustainable transformation.
Project partners and key data
The project "WetNetBB - Management and Biomass Utilisation of Wet Fens: Network of model and demonstration projects in peatland regions of Brandenburg" is coordinated by the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy. Network partners are the Brandenburg State Office for the Environment (LfU), the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde (HNEE), the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ). As part of the federal programme 'Natural Climate Protection', the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture is funding WetNetBB with 18.4 million euros for a period of 9 years.