In the past, they were considered impassable, unusable areas, but today they are seen as unique natural environments that deserve protection: unspoiled moors provide a habitat for rare animal and plant species, retain water and play a special role in climate protection, because they store CO2.
In the late eighteenth century many moors were drained using drainage ditches. The aim was to open them up to agricultural and forestry use. Today we know that a drained moor cannot have a regulating effect on the climate, because it releases stored CO2 and therefore contributes to global warming.
That is why the non-profit organisation Bergwaldprojekt e.V. is trying to reverse the draining of moors and thereby save dried-out moorland. The so-called rehydration process is considered one of the most effective climate protection measures in the field of land management, which is why the organisation has been working to revitalise moors for a number of years and is cooperating with the Harz National Park (Germany) to carry out a special rehydration process. It is being implemented in numerous areas – including the Hunsrück in summer 2017.
Protecting moorland protects the climate: restoring damaged moors
To restore a drained moor you have to raise the general water level, so ditches created to drain the moor must be blocked. That prevents constant water loss and means future rainfall is better retained by the moor. Then the moor can recover over a number of years, which allows plants and animals to return.
Moors store water and carbon: In moors, the remains of dead plants slowly decompose as new plants grow. That process creates peat. It stores carbon because the CO2 absorbed by the growing plants is retained in the peat after they die, which has a positive effect on the climate.
The storing function of a wet moor is so exceptional that although moorland only covers 3% of the earth’s surface, its layers of peat account for a third of all land-based carbon storage. That equates to approximately double the amount stored by all the biomass of the world’s forests. For example, it is estimated that moors in Germany store as much CO2 as the country’s forests (moors cover approximately 4% of the country’s area, while forests cover 30%).
Peat can also store water like a sponge. That allows it to soak up heavy rain and then slowly release it back into the environment, which reduces flooding and has a balancing effect on local climates, because constant evaporation has a cooling effect on the atmosphere.
Rehydration in the Hunsrück: commitment, muscle power and chainsaws
To restore the moor, the volunteers need all kinds of equipment, including spades, shovels and saws. They also use STIHL MS 261 chainsaws. We show how “moor rescue” works in the Hunsrück:
Before work with the chainsaw begins, a shaft with a width of approximately one meter is dug perpendicular to the former drainage ditch. The shaft is dug to accommodate a structure with a height of at least two meters, to stop water from flowing underneath.
When the digging is complete, the STIHL MS 261 comes into play: Faltering Scots pines from the moor are properly felled, trimmed, cut to length and sharpened to make the supporting posts required for the structure.
Once the tree trunks have been debarked, the resulting posts are rammed into the ground at the bottom of the ditch. Then the posts are connected by nailing perpendicular planks between them.
Meanwhile, another group of volunteers cuts turf, which will be used to line the ditch. It catches detritus from the water, and thereby sustainably reduces the flow of water. Finally, the ditch is refilled with the excavated turf and the structure is covered.
The result is impressive: the structure acts as a dam and the drained peat gradually fills with water. That is the first step towards rehydration.
For more information about STIHL’s support for the Bergwaldprojekt see our blog articles STIHL supports the organisation Bergwaldprojekt e.V. and STIHL supports the Bergwaldprojekt’s forest school.
If you want more information about Bergwaldprojekt e.V., visit the organisation’s website at: www.bergwaldprojekt.de
For comprehensive information regarding STIHL’s environmental engagement visit: http://www.stihl.com/ative-in-environmental-protection.aspx