On February 2, 1971, the international Convention on Wetlands was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar.
As of this year, February 2nd is therefore an official international day of the United Nations as World Wetlands Day. The World Wetlands Day aims to raise global awareness of the vital role wetlands play for the earth and for us humans. This year's campaign focuses on a call to action to protect wetlands.
Wetlands play an important role in both protecting biodiversity and reducing CO2 emissions.
In Germany, for example, we are taking action for the protection of such areas in the bogs of the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park. The landscape here is characterized by huge forests, steep hills, small streams and ponds, rocks and swamps. A perfect home for many rare animal and plant species, but also a great area for hiking. The Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park was founded in 2015 and is home not only to wolves, moufflons and the rare wild cats, but also to the hillside bogs of the Hunsrück. Since 2016, international volunteers have been supporting the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature and Environment Foundation and the rangers in the national park in rewetting the bogs with us.
Drainage of bogs in Germany
In a natural hillside bog, rainwater seeps slowly and continuously down the hillside until it reaches the peat layers that have formed over the past 4000 years. Peat stores water, so the soil here remains permanently wet. Not practical for making paths and roads. Or to plant trees to meet an increasing demand for wood. Traditionally, dried peat was also often used as a fuel. Gradually, more and more drainage ditches were dug in the last century and more and more moors were drained.
The hillside bogs of the national park were also drained with ditches in the last century in order to use them as forests. While originally 5% of Germany was covered by moors, it is now only 0.1%. Is it bad? Yes, because bog areas are an important and valuable natural CO2 storage. When the peat dries, it releases nutrients and the CO2 it has stored.
Bogs currently bind almost twice as much CO2 as all forests worldwide.
With the drainage of the bogs, the CO2 emissions increase. In addition to the emission of CO2, the special habitat for rare animal and plant species is also disappearing as a result of drained bogs. In order to counteract both, work is being done in the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park as part of the EU LIFE+ project to close the drainage systems, rebuild paths and thus gradually restore the hillside bogs to their original state. What does that look like? On wooden boardwalks our volunteers cross the bog to get to the working areas. There, wooden barriers are then hammered into old drainage ditches. The sections separated in this way are filled with wood chips and sawdust. Finally, the former ditches will be planted.
The first successes of the nature conservation work of the past few years are already visible: many different species (especially amphibians and rare plants) have already returned.
Would you like to support us and the rangers in the national park with their work in the bogs?
Under the motto "Let's take action for climate protection", in 2022 we will be dealing with the topic of climate protection in forests and moors both in our camps and in our full-time team and with our voluntary group leaders and team leaders. An international work camp is also taking place in the Hunsrück National Park. Are you there too?