The LIFE REstore carried out an inventory of degraded peatlands in Latvia
The LIFE REstore inventory of peatlands indicates that there are 18010 ha of degraded peatlands in Latvia which compiles 36% of all areas affected by peat extraction. The main objectives of the project LIFE REstore “Sustainable and responsible management and re-use of degraded peatlands in Latvia” is to develop recommendations for sustainable, responsible management and re-use of degraded peatlands in Latvia as well as to develop the optimisation model which will allow to plan degraded peatlands’ re-use, balancing environmental, climate and economic aspects. All the data on degraded peatlands collected during the LIFE REstore inventory are stored in a publicly accessible database. The inventory of degraded peatlands was carried out within the European Union LIFE program project LIFE REstore by Nature Conservation Agency of Latvia, Latvian Peat Association, Latvian State Forest Institute “Silava” and association “Baltic Coasts”.
The LIFE REstore inventory of degraded peatlands includes only the peatlands which were affected by peat extraction, and not peatlands drained for agricultural and forestry purposes.
Degraded peatlands are areas where peat extraction is either abandoned or has been completed and the areas have not been re-cultivated. Such areas cause greenhouse gas emissions, thus affecting the climate. They do not provide potential economic benefits and do not ensure the recovery of biodiversity. A large part of these areas have not recovered naturally for decades. For these territories sustainable management has to be planned by choosing an appropriate re-cultivation scenario.
In order to identify areas affected by peat extraction in Latvia, clarify the amount of degraded peatlands and their current status, and develop recommendations for sustainable management and re-use of degraded peatlands, the LIFE REstore project carried out an inventory of peatlands identifying areas affected by peat extraction in Latvia since the 19th century – in total 50179 hectares.
The inventory of degraded peatlands is available HERE.
RESULTS OF THE INVENTORY
By analysing areas affected by peat extraction in Latvia – 50179 hectares – it was identified that:
- 18 010 (36%) are degraded peatlands owned mainly by state and municipalities;
- 15 008 ha (30%) are used for peat extraction, after which, according to the law, the owner will decide on its further use and type of recultivation;
- 2 380 (5%) – self-recovered or self-recultivated peatlands where natural bog vegetation has been recovered. As it was found out in the inventory - it is possible only when there is a sufficient water regime and residual peat layer;
- 7 110 ha (14%) - flooded areas or territories used for creating waterbodies;
- 6 823 ha (14%) – territories that are self-afforested or have been afforested;
- 363 ha (1%) – territories where meadows have emerged or were cultivated;
- 266 ha (0,5%) – built-up areas;
- 219 ha (0,4%) – berry production areas.
From all peat extraction affected areas 36% are degraded peatlands. They are located in all Latvia – there are no concentration zones of degraded peatlands. Many of them are located near Riga and near state borders.
Degraded peatlands can be found in 72 municipalities and in two cities – Riga and Jūrmala. Size of degraded peatlands in municipalities vary from one hectare to many thousands of hectares and they can be located in several municipalities simultaneously.
The smallest identified areas are around 2 hectares, largest peat extraction affected area – 5 100 hectares – Sedas tīrelis.
There are 25 degraded peatlands (14%) which are located in protected nature areas, where further management should consist of re-naturalization. There are also 21 degraded peatlands neighbouring such areas – located less than 1 km besides protected nature areas.
The average thickness of residual peat layers in degraded peatlands is from 1,4 to 2,5 meters, but for example in Ķoniņu Mire in Burtnieku municipality residual peat layer thickness is 7,7 meters. For those degraded peatlands with thick residual peat layers the most appropriate re-use scenario prior to their re-cultivation could be peat extraction in order to ensure the rational use of peat resources.
How the inventory was carried out?
In order to identify and characterise degraded peatlands in Latvia, existing databases and archive materials were analysed as well as expert interviews were held. Since there was no information about several territories geological and hydrological research was done in 78 degraded peatlands in total area of 10 463 ha.
The vegetation research of degraded peatlands in all regions of the country took place as well. It was carried out in different type of degraded peatlands – where different methods of peat extraction were applied, where extraction has been discontinued in different periods of time - from 40 years ago till recent times. Territories with different thickness of residual peat layer, hydrological regime and vegetation development stage were analysed – in total 32 degraded peatlands or 34071 ha.
During the vegetation inventory, vegetation characterization was done – evaluating peatland type, existing ditch system, hydrological regime and degradation stage thus allowing to estimate the possibilities of re-naturalization or other re-cultivation scenarios of researched degraded peatlands. The vegetation inventory allowed to identify 14 stages of vegetation development in degraded peatlands in Latvia.
Publicly available database
All the data on degraded peatlands collected during the LIFE REstore inventory are stored in a publicly accessible database – in a separate section of ‘Ozols’, the Nature Conservation Agency’s nature data management system, where they are publicly accessible to anyone.
What should be done with degraded peatlands in Latvia?
Degraded peatlands mostly formed in the 1990s when the state's independence was restored. The socioeconomic situation and landowners changed, for that reason some peat extraction companies ceased their activities.
During the LIFE REstore inventory, a number of degraded peatlands with up to 8 meters thick residual peat layers were discovered. The most appropriate re-use scenario prior to their re-cultivation could be peat extraction in order to ensure the rational use of peat resources. Those degraded peatlands which are located in protected nature territories further management should consist of re-naturalization. The rest of degraded peatlands in Latvia should await a decision on the most appropriate of the seven scenarios of re-cultivation investigated by LIFE REstore, balancing environmental, climate and economic aspects:
- Re-naturalization or natural bog development by restoring hydrological regime and bog vegetation;
- Afforestation – both long term afforestation and wood biomass production;
- Arable land for agriculture;
- Berry production;
- Paludiculture cultivation for biomass production;
- Creation of water reservoirs;
- Meadows cultivation.
Activities are implemented within the European Union LIFE program Climate Action sub-program Climate Change Mitigation priority area project “Sustainable and responsible management and re-use of degraded peatlands in Latvia” (LIFE REstore, LIFE14 CCM/LV/001103). The implementation of the project is coordinated by the Nature Conservation Agency in cooperation with the Latvian State Forest Research Institute ‘’Silava’’, the Latvian Peat Association and the association ‘’Baltic Coasts’’. More information: restore.daba.gov.lv
For more information please contact Anda Zālmane, representative of the Nature Conservation Agency, PR specialist of LIFE REstore: +371 26539348,email@example.com