Soils from former peatlands are dwindling very quickly in certain farming systems. Jens Leifeld and his team are investigating how previous use has affected these peatlands, and which alternative uses are available to slow down peat loss. They are also analysing the use history and investigating the vulnerability of former peatlands. New policy instruments should show how alternative uses can be promoted.

Lay summary

The draining and subsequent exploitation of moors, especially over the last century, has led to a great peat loss and to considerable carbon dioxide emissions, because peat is destroyed by micro-organisms when oxygen is added (peat oxidation). The kind of farming system is a crucial factor in determining the level of peat consumption. If the groundwater level rises, peat loss and greenhouse gases decrease, as do, however, land use possibilities.

Using management data and vulnerability measures, the project is evaluating the effects of previous use on the condition of the soil. Building on this, it will sound out possible alternative uses and propose policy instruments that support alternative forms of use. This information will lead to the formation of guidelines.

In addition to information on the effects of previous use, the project will show how changes of use can be introduced, and what effects farms should expect following a change of land use. This aspect is not just of interest to individual farms, but is of socio-political importance in an increasing number of countries where former peatlands have been in some cases intensively exploited.