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 is 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.

Our initial ambition is to support the restoration of 95 hectares of peatland, and support the restoration of 3 peatland lakes. This will bring about substantial benefits for local people, and help prevent climate change. The project will showcase restoration and management methods, and create new business opportunities.


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

Our objective is to demonstrate sustainable ways to use Peatland. Our vision for the future is one 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 do this through 2 main activities;

  • Physical restoration of the landscape, raising water levels in drained bogs and fens, and restoring lake edges to improve their water quality. This will halt the release of CO2 that occurs on drained peatlands, and restore the capacity of the land to act as a buffer to floods and droughts. Improving water quality will improve the recreational value of the waterways and support tourism by reducing incidents of toxic algal blooms. 
  • Demonstrating sustainable use of the land, through piloting agricultural products that can be grown on wet land (known as Paludiculture), and showing that there is a viable economic alternative to draining land for agriculture. 

Project Activities

To meet these challenges, by the end of 2022 we will have;

  • Create over 60 hectares of new bog habitat
  • Create over 20 hectares of new reedland habitat
  • Trial 10 hectares of new agricultural production, including reed (phragmites), Cattail (Typha),  sphagnum moss, and Canary Grass (Phalaris).
  • Trial products from waste material from management of wetlands, such as charcoal, paper and compost. 

We are also working on three shallow lakes to help restore their banks, which will help reduce their nutrient content, and work towards restoring them to their original clear state. This work is being supported by mathematical modelling called PC Lake.

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. Through all of the CANAPE actions we will work closely with local communities to ensure that the work we are doing will benefit them, and they are able to carry on supporting the project’s vision after the project is completed.

At all our investment sites we are working with and consulting with local communities to ensure that the development meets a common vision for the area.

Additionally we have implemented “citizen science” approaches, using members of the local community to support data collection about our peatlands, helping them to understand the landscape, and helping researchers gather important data to support scientific understanding of our natural capital.

Finally, we are also supporting research into the relationship between local people and interventions to improve the quality of the environment in peatland areas, to help management organisations better plan their public engagement.

How to get involved

Please keep an eye on our news page for events, and look for a local partner on our partner’s page or project map page. If you have any queries about the project, please do not hesitate to contact us (details on the contact page). 

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).