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Sustainable management of cultivated peatlands in Switzerland: Insights, challenges, and opportunities

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Ferré Marie, Muller Adrian, Leifeld Jens, Bader Cédric, Müller Moritz, Engel Stefanie, Wichmann Sabine,
Project Sustainable Management of Organic Soils
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Land Use Policy
Volume (Issue) 87
Page(s) 104019 - 104019
Title of proceedings Land Use Policy
DOI 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.05.038

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Major common production activities on organic soils require drainage, which results in the loss of important ecosystem services such as carbon storage. This paper provides an overview of the farming situation on organic soils in a western region of Switzerland characterized by intensive vegetable farming and therefore by high opportunity costs of adopting sustainable practices on these soils. Based on a review of the academic and grey literature and interviews with regional experts, we find that the main challenges to a change in management practices include the profitability of the current land use, the difficult economic environment of farmers, the cultural background associated with the region, and the absence of systematic data on soil properties. We provide a comparative overview of policy options that could promote sustainable use of organic soils, and present the diverse economic, environmental, and social implications of potential future scenarios of the development on these soils, namely pursuing the current land use versus adopting peat-preserving land use. Based on a basic economic analysis, we find that considering the carbon benefits of preserving the soils, current offsetting-carbon policies cannot compensate the opportunity cost of switching land use on organic soils used for intensive vegetable farming. With the price of carbon offsetting options, only up to the half of the opportunity cost would be covered. We therefore stress the need for a long-term vision of the management decision on these soils and for eliciting society’s willingness to invest in preserving organic soils.