Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems

Worldwide peatlands store more carbon that all of the world's forests, despite accounting for a smaller fraction of land area. Ancient bogs and fens can store hundreds of tons of carbon in an area the size of a football pitch - more than is stored in a tropical rainforest. Once damaged, these sites release this carbon as CO2 into the atmosphere and drive global warming.

The Creating A New Approach to Peatland Ecosystems (CANAPE) project was a 5.5 million euro project working in 5 countries to restore and preserve wetlands, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to support the creation of a sustainable economy for the population of the North Sea Region.

The project rewetted over 90 ha of peatland, with a mixture of nature restoration, and the creation of 3 experimental Paludiculture Farms. In addition, we carried out restoration works at 2 lakes, and carried out further studies at another 2 lakes that will support their long-term restoration.


The lowland landscape of the North Sea Region contains substantial amounts of wetland, including bogs, fens and swamps. These wetlands form peat, which consists of dead plant matter which in the waterlogged conditions cannot fully break down. In some cases the peat has been building for thousands of years, creating bogs and fens that are many meters deep. 

Since the middle ages humans have used peat as a fuel and for agriculture, which releases CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The drainage of wetlands to allow them to be used for agriculture has reduced the ability of river catchments to store water, making them less resilient against flooding and drought.

At the same time, nutrient inflows from human activity have caused many shallow peatland lakes to become Eutrophic, leading to a loss of biodiversity. Some studies also indicate that in their eutrophic state lakes could start to release large amounts of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) as average global temperatures rise.


Project Objectives

The project demonstrated sustainable uses for peatlands, and developed knowledge about how to practically manage peatlands. This support our vision for the future, where peatlands are both productive and sustainable, providing wider environmental benefits such as water and carbon storage, and also providing an income for landowners through alternatives to traditional agriculture. 

We will achieved this through the following activities;

  • Constructed 3 trial Paludiculture Farms to showcase the potential alternative agriculture that can take place on peatlands, without the need for drainage and damaging CO2 emissions; 
    • 1 Sphagnum Farm was constructed in Germany 
    • A typha and wetland grass farm was constructed in Denmark
    • A typha and phragmites reed farm was constructed in the UK 

  • Physical restoration of the landscape, raising water levels in drained bogs and fens, and restoring lake edges to improve their water quality. This included;
    • Over 60ha of new bog habitat
    • Over 20 hectares of new reed fen habitat

  • Trialled the creation of various products from wetland waste, making use of reed, grass and wood cuttings that arise from the management of nature reserves.

  • Carried out modelling of Lakes with PC Lake. PC Lake is a mathematical model that examines the nutrient loading of a lake, and aids the forecasting of which interventions will improve the water quality.

  • Performed detailed researched into the relationship between bream populations and water quality in De Leijen, which will support future restoration efforts as it gives information which locations to target for macrophyte regeneration.

To learn more about our habitat restoration see the "our sites" page. 

Working with local communities

Ultimately, the long term future of Peatland will only be secured if the local communities and farmers can see the benefit for them in restoring and protecting it, and have the resources available to change land management practice.

Our outreach included;

  •         Citizen Science Projects, such as public peat coring initiatives, BioBlitzs, and fish tracking
  •         Exhibits at local exhibitions
  •         Creation of education videos.

Peatlands - Climate Regulation and Biodiversity 

This short film discusses the importance of peatlands, and was produced on behalf of the Council of Nordic Ministers ahead of UNFCCC COP21 (The Paris Climate Conference 2015).