Peatlands are home to many rare and threatened species found nowhere else. They help to regulate our climate by storing carbon. They can also reduce flooding and act as a buffer against pollution. But peatlands are disappearing fast and need our help.
The EU Habitats Directive and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas are vital for saving Europe’s peatlands. 33 000 km2 of peatlands are already protected under this Directive across 8 700 Natura 2000 sites. Also, the European Commission’s EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 calls for peatland restoration and strict protection. This is vital as only 10% of Europe’s peatlands are currently in good condition.
The LIFE programme featured prominently at last week’s 16th edition of the International Peatland Congress (IPC2021). Here are some key points and discussions from our keynote.
Between 1992 and 2018, LIFE funded 363 projects to conserve and restore Europe’s drained and degraded peatlands. Typical actions have included rewetting by damming and closing drainage systems, deforestation on drained peatlands and getting rid of invasive alien species. Highlights of LIFE’s work so far have been the restoration of 170 000 hectares of mires in the United Kingdom and 40% of Belgium's peatlands.
Considering the high rates of biodiversity loss and climate change impacts, it was deemed critical to safeguard peatlands through effective management and active restoration. It was also agreed that LIFE peatland projects can contribute to reaching the European Green Deal’s ambitious targets.
The new LIFE programme will aim to restore and conserve all peatlands – be they in the Natura 2000 network or not. This includes severely degraded peatlands from agricultural and forestry use as well as from industrial peat extraction. This was warmly welcomed by participants.
It was agreed that communicating the importance of peatlands is vital for awareness-raising and that social media outreach has a particularly important role to play.
Also, LIFE’s experience in developing sophisticated monitoring systems is a big chance for researchers and research organisations to apply for LIFE funding.
Some of LIFE’s best peatland projects participated in IPC2021. They include:
Want to find out more?
Presentation: The LIFE programme and peatland restoration
Recording: LIFE at the 16th International Peatland Congress 2021
Factsheet: Peatlands for LIFE
Image: LIFE14 NAT/EE/000126/Maria Maasikamäe - LIFE Mires Estonia - All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.
- 12 Maj 2021