cover

Paludiculture - productive use of wet peatlands

Climate protection - biodiversity - regional economic benefits

Ed.: Wendelin Wichtmann; Christian Schröder; Hans Joosten

2016. VIII, 272 pages, 109 tables, 49 infoboxes, 21x28cm, 1300 g
Language: English

ISBN 978-3-510-65283-9, bound, price: 79.90 €

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Keywords

biomass productionfenmirerewettingecosystem functiongreenhouse gasdegradationbiofuelsnutrient balanceecosystem servicesecology

Contents

Synopsis top ↑

Peatlands cover some 4 million km² worldwide. Approximately 15% of this area – particularly in the temperate zone and the (sub)tropics – is drained, largely to be used for conventional agriculture and forestry. Drainage leads to irreparable damage to peatlands. Subsidence and soil degradation frustrate long-term peatland utilisation and are responsible for almost 6% of the total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions can be strongly reduced by rewetting. Rewetting, however, makes conventional land use impossible. In contrast, paludiculture on wet and rewetted peatlands allows for permanent, sustainable cultivation of peatlands.

The volume introduces paludiculture as a novel land use practice for the production of biomass, which is further able to reactivate or sustain a wide variety of ecosystem services impaired by peatland drainage. Biomass from wet peatlands is useful for various applications: as fuel and raw material, food, fodder and medicine.

The authors discuss and evaluate the ecosystem services and economic feasibility of various land use options. Practical recommendations for and legal aspects of implementing paludicultural methods are presented as well as experiences with its worldwide application. The historical development of peatland utilization, including its increasing intensification, the resulting soil degradation, and the recent development of paludiculture as an alternative, balanced land use approach are described.

The book provides extensive information for practioners and scientists as well as decision-makers in politics, management, and explains the principles of wise peatland management, encouraging the worldwide implementation of paludiculture as a unique form of sustainable utilisation of organic soils.

This book is also available in German language: Paludikultur - Bewirtschaftung nasser Moore

Book Review: Landschap 2016/2 top ↑

Conventionele landbouw in veengebieden is niet duurzaam. De ontwatering die daarvoor nodig is leidt onherroepelijk tot veenoxidatie, bodemdaling, uitstoot van broeikasgassen en uiteindelijk verlies van de bodem. In Paludiculture wordt een alternatief geïntroduceerd, een manier van landbouw bedrijven die gebruik maakt van de spontane of gecultiveerde biomassaproductie in natte of vernatte veengebieden.
Dit kloeke boek is het resultaat van een jarenlange interdisciplinaire samenwerking in het Duitse Vorpommern Initiative Paludiculture. Maar liefst 73 auteurs bundelen hun kennis over en praktische ervaringen met paludicultuur in dit boek en behandelen een breed scala aan onderwerpen van ecosysteemdiensten, economische haalbaarheid en wet- en regelgeving tot productie, oogst en verwerkingsmogelijkheden van paludicultuurgewassen. Ik beperk me hier tot de meer praktische en technische aspecten van paludicultuur.
Bij paludigewassen gaat het onder meer om riet, rietgras, zeggen, veenmos en lisdodde. Deze kunnen meer of minder makkelijk verwerkt worden tot biobrandstoffen, constructie- en isolatiematerialen, veevoeder en medicijnen. De productie- en verwerkingsprocessen van de gewassen zijn beschreven en geïllustreerd met technische tekeningen en kleurenfoto’s.
Een cruciaal onderdeel van paludicultuur is de oogst. De grote uitdaging is om machines te ontwikkelen die zijn aangepast aan natte omstandigheden (en niet andersom), die een zo laag mogelijke druk op de ondergrond uitoefenen en het aantal werkgangen zoveel mogelijk beperken. Een heel hoofdstuk is daar aan gewijd. Zo wordt een pistenbully (soort tractor die skipistes begaanbaar maakt) beschreven die is uitgevoerd met een maai-/zuigcombinatie en meesturende aanhanger om grootschalig moerassen te oogsten. De effecten die de verschillende machines op de bodem en vegetatie hebben zijn onderzocht en op basis van praktijktests worden er aanbevelingen gedaan voor verdere technische ontwikkeling en logistieke uitvoering van oogstwerkzaamheden.
Sommige onderwerpen blijven onderbelicht, zoals ziekten en plagen en selectie van gewenste gewaseigenschappen. Veel voorbeelden van paludicultuur hebben betrekking op de extensieve landbouw in Oost-Europa. Is introductie in een hoge input landbouw, zoals de Nederlandse, mogelijk? De hoge input van meststoffen en chemicaliën bij ons zou kunnen doorwerken in bijvoorbeeld de broeikasgassenbalans en de kwaliteit van de geproduceerde biomassa of eindproducten.
Niettemin beveel ik Paludiculture aan bij iedereen die zich betrokken voelt bij de bodemdaling in veenweidegebieden. Het boek is praktisch, oplossingsgericht en biedt een hoopvol geluid in de voortdurende – en vaak louter probleemgerichte - discussies over dit onderwerp. De talloze voorbeeldprojecten uit verschillende landen hebben mij (nog meer) overtuigd dat paludicultuur een duurzaam perspectief kan bieden, ook voor veengebieden in Nederland.

Bas van de Riet, Onderzoekscentrum B-ware en Landschap Noord-Holland

Landschap 2016/2

Book review: Biotechnol. Agron. Soc. Environ. 2016 20(4) top ↑

Peatlands cover some 4 million km² worldwide. Approximately 15% of this area – particularly in the temperate zone and the (sub)tropics – is drained, largely to be used for conventional agriculture and forestry. Drainage leads to irreparable damage to peatlands. Subsidence and soil degradation frustrate long-term peatland utilisation and are responsible for almost 6% of the total global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.Soil degradation and greenhouse gas emissions can be strongly reduced by rewetting. Rewetting, however, makes conventional land use impossible. In contrast, paludiculture on wet and rewetted peatlands allows for permanent, sustainable cultivation of peatlands.The volume introduces paludiculture as a novel land use practice for the production of biomass, which is further able to reactivate or sustain a wide variety of ecosystem services impaired by peatland drainage. Biomass from wet peatlands is useful for various applications: as fuel and raw material, food, fodder and medicine.The authors discuss and evaluate the ecosystem services and economic feasibility of various land use options. Practical recommendations for and legal aspects of implementing paludicultural methods are presented as well as experiences with its worldwide application. The historical development of peatland utilization, including its increasing intensification, the resulting soil degradation, and the recent development of paludiculture as an alternative, balanced land use approach are described.The book provides extensive information for practioners and scientists as well as decision-makers in politics, management, and explains the principles of wise peatland management, encouraging the worldwide implementation of paludiculture as a unique form of sustainable utilisation of organic soils.

Biotechnologie, Agronomie, Société et Environnement BASE vol. 20 no. 4 (2016)

Book Review: Restoration Ecology Vol. 25, No. 4, July 2017 top ↑

This book reports on the results of a remarkable scientific, but also practical adventure, on how to use drained peatlands that have lost their agricultural value and often are abandoned, but still mineralize intensively, while emitting thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. Paludiculture is the agricultural or silvicultural use of wet or rewetted peatlands under conditions in which peat is conserved. According to the editors, paludiculture could be an “inclusive solution” to the problem that drainage-based agriculture produces, namely continuous peat degradation, eventually leading to the complete loss of peat. Paludiculture is presented as a new land use practice to produce biomass and simultaneously sustain a wide variety of ecosystem services, such as biodiversity, production of fuel, food, building material, and medicine.
The book consists of 11 chapters andwas written by 73(!) authors, and is more an encyclopedia on alternative peat use rather than an exciting novel on the future of abused peatlands.
Forewords to the book are written by Martin Frick, Director of Climate and Environment Division of the FAO, Rome, and Michael Succow, Professor Emeritus of Greifswald University, Germany. Martin Frick recommends the book because “it is an important basis for more responsible peatland management on a global scale and could be an important element for fighting both climate change and hunger.” Michael Succow is more modest, but he goes to the basis of the whole idea of promoting paludiculture; it is “not merely a word, it is a principle, a rethinking of how to deal with peatlands in agricultural use.” He writes: “Since my Biology studies in Greifswald more than 50 years ago, I am deeply attached to peatlands. I had still the fortune and opportunity to experience mire landscapes in central and eastern Europe under peat preserving low-intensity land use. For me (the book) is a delayed gratification, a relief to see a new start being made, … after 30 years … of peatland abuse.” I would say that the book is not just a delayed gratification; it is delayed revenge. He had been surveying peatlands just before the Germany Democratic Republic (GDR) started to destroy large peatlands by deep drainage and installed an industrial agricultural use, and then was forced—as a dissident of the GDR—to work in the field for 20 years. After the fall of the wall (Die Wende in German) in 1989, he and three former dissident colleagues established the East German system of national parks and protected nature areas, and returned to his university in Greifswald. He was deeply involved in organizing rewetting projects in degraded peatlands and finding political support for that. The editors of the book shaped and led the projects that were financed by both federal and regional German governments and also by the European Union, for more than a decade. All this is not mentioned in the book, but it is important to know where this book came from and why it is focussed so much on the (east) German and Belarus situation.
In Chapter 2, Jutta Zeitz describes how the German peatlands had been transferred into large agricultural fields with mainly arable farming and production of fodder for intensive cattle and pig breeding during the communist era. Yields went up, after the establishment of the drainage schemes, but shortly after the peat started to degrade and yield dropped considerably. Such a destructive land use in peat areas is usually stopped when economic benefits drop and the peatlands are abandoned. This has indeed happened on a massive scale in Eastern Europe, but in Western Europe subsidies to farmers prevent this economic mechanism to work. The authors of the book are, however, confident that conventional drainage-based agriculture on peatlands is a cul-de-sac, and that paludiculture on rewetted peatlands will eventually be the only sustainable form of land use.
Chapter 3 gives a very detailed overview of the production and utilization of biomass from areas where paludiculture has been introduced, including which plant species are suitable for production. Susanne Abel and coworkers have produced a worldwide database on potential paludiculture plants and present a wealth of practical information on which species can be used in paludiculture and how to plant and manage them. In this chapter also much information is presented on how marsh plants can be harvested, processed, and sold to buyers.
Chapter 4 focusses on how to harvest biomass from paludiculture and how important it is to limit the transport of biomass to sites where it can be processed to products. The chapter discusses various specially adapted machines to harvest the biomass and how these machines affect the soil. The cost of transport of biomass increases steeply when the transport distance is more than 20–30 km. Only when the biomass has first been transformed into pellets, the transport costs remain rather low.
Chapter 5 deals with ecosystem services that paludiculture can provide. The most obvious one is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from rewetted peatlands, and this has a positive effect on the global climate. A nice overview of how paludiculture can influence greenhouse gas balances in peatlands is presented by a team of scientists from Rostock and Greifswald Universities. Interesting new insights are the result of studies showing that mowing does not increase greenhouse gas emissions, but that grazing (via trampling and methane emissions via rumen) does, although modestly. Quantifying the effects of rewetting and paludiculture is difficult (or rather impossible) to assess in individual cases (too expensive to measure). The authors propose a simple method via changes in species composition of the vegetation.
Chapter 6 deals with economic aspects of paludiculture. As paludiculture is a relatively new phenomenon, little international literature is available and most data presented in this book originate from the German experience. Sabine Wichman shows that harvesting reed biomass for roof thatching (during winter) is the most profitable activity in paludiculture. Making bales for combustion is economical, although barely. High quality end products, such as water buffalos, are economically successful, but harvesting chopped biomass for biogas production is under the present conditions usually uneconomical. It is difficult to assess the economic viability of paludiculture and compare it with conventional agricultural use of peatlands, as the latter is supported by politics that transfer a large proportion of external costs to the society as a whole. Market prices of agricultural products are thus distorted by subsidies and the exclusion of external costs. Despite these difficulties, research shows that rewetting of peatlands is a very cost-effective way of climate change mitigation; the costs to reduce CO2 emission by rewetting peatlands (without further agricultural use) are 2–3 times lower than for hydro- and wind-power generation and 20–25 times lower than for instance maize-based biogas production.
Chapter 7 focusses on the legal framework of paludiculture, particularly on the German situation. On a more general European level, the legislation is recognizable for European readers. Subsidies for ecologically “friendly” grassland management can be claimed by farmers that use paludiculture, but it is not a lot. However, the recognition of paludiculture as being also production of agricultural products on agricultural land is necessary for requiring European Union (EU) subsidies for direct payments. Initiatives to achieve this are under way, but the introduction of paludiculture on a larger scale requires a change in the way subsidies for agri-environmental measures are calculated. Many existing laws and regulations are aimed at maintaining income for farmers who are active in drainage-based agriculture in peatlands, and not on solving environmental problems. In Chapter 8, these socioeconomic aspects of paludiculture are discussed in more detail. In all restoration projects, talks with stakeholders are a must. Some interesting experiments on gaining support for paludiculture practices are presented in this chapter. However, in order to remove obstacles and reservations against paludiculture, the rules of the game should also be changed. When paludiculture is legally equal to other agricultural uses, it is more easy to convince landowners and farmers to make the shift to a more sustainable agriculture.
Chapters 9 and 10 elaborate further on the future options and possibilities for paludiculture, in Germany and also internationally. Hans Joosten gives an overview on the global demand for paludiculture, also in the framework of international commitments (Ramsar, FAO, UN Convention on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, EU Habitat Directive, and EU Water framework Directive). There are encouraging developments during the last 5 years especially. International policies have focussed more in trying to halt the deterioration of peatlands and peatland soils. The repeated catastrophic peat fires in Indonesia,Malaysia, and also in Russia have convinced many politicians that alternatives have to be developed in order to use peatland in a more sustainable way. One of the first countries that initiated large-scale rewetting projects was Belarus, later followed by Russia (after the 2010 peat fires). In Poland, the large (protected) Biebrza marshes became overgrown by willow shrubs since the end of the last century. Since 2009, the former meadows are mown again by tracked mowing machines and the biomass is used to make pellets for direct combustion. And subsidies via agri-environmental schemes make this paludiculture in near-national mires attractive to farmers. Although the need to use the large Asian tropical mires wet is evident, paludiculture has not yet developed in Indonesia and Malaysia. René Dommain lists numerous possibilities to use rewetted swamp forests. Much of these usages originate from former use of swamp forests. In China, paludiculture is an already long established way to use reed for paper production, in areas where wood is in short supply. In Canada cattail (Typha latifolia) is used to reduce nutrient loads in Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba. The biomass is used for producing bioenergy.
In the last chapter, the editors summarize what needs to be done to stimulate large-scale implementation of paludiculture and why it is essential to present examples that are successful. The editors realize that paludiculture is touching on political practices on all levels. They argue that the present drainage practices are justified with the misconception that wet peatlands are useless wastelands. And there is much denial of problems in drained peatlands, not only among politicians and farmers but also within industrial enterprises, such as the palm-oil industry in Malaysia. However, in drainage-based agriculture, peat soils are not treated as a base for production, but instead are consumed as a product. Soil subsidence and greenhouse gas emissions are slow processes and not directly visible for land users, but the costs of adapting infrastructure after subsidence are huge, and up to now financed by the society as a whole. The “polluter pays” principle is turned upside down and public funds are used to add to the problems, instead of solving them. The legal framework is still aimed at destructive use of peatlands, not on conserving them. This book is a very valuable contribution to solving long-lasting problems with peatland soils, not only in Germany or Europe, but even globally. This book is a must for people, scientists, politicians, and farmers who want to make a change to more sustainable agriculture.

Ab P. Grootjans

Restoration Ecology Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 661–663, July 2017

Table of Contents top ↑

Preface by the laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, Michael Succow V
Foreword by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), Martin Frick VI
1 Paludiculture as an inclusive solution 1
2 The limits of drainage based peatland utilisation 3
2.1 Fen peatland use in Northeast Germany 3
2.2 Drainage induced peat degradation processes 7
2.3 Impact of drainage on productivity 9
2.4 Ecosystem services of peatlands 13
3 Production and utilisation of paludiculture biomass 21
3.1 Promising plants for paludiculture 22
3.2 Edible and medical plants from paludiculture 38
3.3 The production of fodder in paludiculture 39
3.4 Material use of biomass from paludiculture 43
3.5 Solid energy from biomass 44
3.6 Liquid and gaseous biofuels 54
4 Harvest and logistics 59
4.1 Trafficability of wet and rewetted fens 59
4.2 Agricultural machinery for wet areas 64
4.3 Logistics of biomass production on wet peatlands 70
4.4 The feasibility of biomass harvest from paludiculture 76
5 Ecosystem services provided by paludiculture 79
5.1 Greenhouse gas emissions 79
5.2 Biodiversity 94
5.3 Local climate and hydrology 102
5.4 Nutrient balance and water pollution control 106
6 Economics of paludiculture 109
6.1 Economic aspects of paludiculture on the farm level 109
6.2 Certification of biomass from paludiculture 120
6.3 The creation of regional value 132
6.4 Welfare aspects of land use on peatland 134
7 Legal and political aspects of paludiculture 143
7.1 The legal framework 143
7.2 Agricultural policy 149
7.3 Control mechanisms and incentives for paludiculture 152
8 Social aspects of paludiculture implementation 157
8.1 The relationship between humans and mires over time 157
8.2 The integration of stakeholders and the public 162
8.3 Acceptance and implementation at the producer level 168
8.4 Transfer of knowledge 171
9 Sustainability and implementation of paludiculture 175
9.1 Sustainable land use 175
9.2 Availability of suitable areas 178
9.3 The decision-support tool TORBOS 185
9.4 Technical measures for implementing paludiculture 188
9.5 Implementation and administrative approval in Germany 194
10 Paludiculture in a global context 197
10.1 Global demands and international commitments 199
10.2 The global potential and perspectives for paludiculture 200
10.3 Germany - Rewetting and paludiculture in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania 204
10.4 Belarus - Biomass from rewetted peatlands as a substitute for peat and for promoting biodiversity 205
10.5 Poland - Paludiculture for biodiversity and peatland protection 207
10.6 Indonesia - Paludiculture as sustainable land use 217
10.7 China - Paper from the water 223
10.8 Canada - Harvesting Typha spp. for nutrient capture and bioeconomy at Lake Winnipeg 226
11 The way out of the desert - What needs to be done 229
11.1 Problems of peatland management and the necessity of paludiculture 229
11.2 Challenges for practice 230
11.3 Awareness raising and communication 231
11.4 Politics and society 231
11.5 Research questions 232
11.6 Outlook 233
References 235
List of contributors 263
Index 265