CANAPE: A year in review

01 February 2019 - Published by Harry Mach
Since our project launch in October 2017, the CANAPE partners have made rapid progress. As our first 18 months comes to an end, we would like to take a moment to reflect on what we have achieved as a partnership. Each of our partners has made substantial progress towards preparing their sites, developing their knowledge and improving their ecosystems.

As a celebration of our first year, and to mark World Wetlands Day 2019, we have produced a short film highlighting the work done at one of our wetland sites, Hickling Broad. 

 The last year...

Across our project area the story of the summer was obviously the drought that affected most of Europe. This led to dry landscapes, peat wildfires in many parts of Europe, and outbreaks of Blue-Green Algae in our project area. The extreme weather highlights the importance of the CANAPE work, both in reducing the climate impact our land management has, and in increasing the resilience of our landscape to extreme weather by raising water levels and improving the water quality.  

So far construction work has begun at Lille Vildmose in Denmark, Barver Moor in Germany and Hickling Broad in the UK. Construction at these sites will continue throughout 2019, and works will also begin in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Our partnership has come together face to face twice over the last 12 months. Firstly we have met in Veendam in the Province of Groningen, Netherlands, and then in Lembruch, in Landkries Deipholz, Germany. Our next meeting will take us to Aalbourg in Denmark. We have shared knowledge of restoration methods, water quality modelling, and begun to build together an understanding of the market in alternative wetland agricultural products. 

Coming up...

Over the next 12 months, our objectives are;

  • Continue construction work, making progress towards the project objective of constructing wetland sites that will reduce carbon emissions by 1,600 tons per year after the end of the project.
  • Launch the first of the CANAPE trial products – Charcoal and Biochar from the woodlands of Broadland in the UK, and harvest of materials that will be turned into products over the coming years.

  • Publication of the first research into public attitudes to peatland interventions in their area

  • Interim publications of research into spatial water quality

  • Launching our citizen science activities, with fish tracking in the Netherlands and Peat Coring in the UK

  • Preparation work at the CANAPE Sphagnum farm trials in the Germany and Denmark

United Kingdom

In the UK we are working in the idyllic setting of The Broads National Park, where farming wetlands is nothing new. Historically much of the fen has been used to grow thatching reed, and this is still a small but active industry in the area. We have been looking for ways to further develop the small scale industries around reed, using reed that is unsuitable for thatching, and bringing new charcoal products to market.

Out on the water, Construction crews are hard at work building 1ha of new land into Hickling Broad, replacing areas that have been lost to wind and waves, and finding a sustainable use for the 19,000m3 of sediment that we are obliged to remove from the Broad as part of our responsibility as a navigation authority.


In Germany, the first steps have been made in turning an exhausted area of drained land into a productive sphagnum farm. The main challenge will be to secure a water supply optimal for the growth of sphagnum moss, and ensuring that it grows in a manner that can be easily harvested. This requires very flat land and a precise water control. Early preparations include the construction of a reservoir on the site, as this summer demonstrated that nature cannot be relied upon to provide consistent water. 

Excavator removes a tree

Removal of trees as the first step to creating a reservoir to store water for the paludiculture site. 

Over the next few months the reservoir will be constructed, and the site will begin to take proper shape. Regular opportunities will be available for viewing the site, which will be advertised through local media. 

Over at Holter Meer, a few miles away, students from the University of Oldenberg have been supporting an evaluation of the hydrology around the lake, which will couple with the Dutch PC lake knowledge allow the local water board to take better decisions around its management.


In Denmark, the year kicked off with a large gathering of locals near Store Vildmose to discuss the future of the area, including a vision of carbon friendly wetland farming rather than the current drained land farming. Over the summer the preparation work began at Lille Vildmose, stripping off the topsoil to provide a good surface for mosses and healthy bog life to take hold. Whilst in the short term this process looks unattractive, the removal of the topsoil is a vital step in ensuring that good healthy sphagnum growth takes place.  Next year the work at Lille Vildmose will continue, and the first site works for Store Vildmose will take place.

Excavators remove turf at Lille Vildmose

Removing topsoil as the first step of restoration at Lille Vildmose


Our partner Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Scientists has been working to improve understanding in lakes. Rather than just taking static water samples, they are creating a spatial map of water quality in Lake De Leijan, which will be compared with tracking of fish to determinrelation between fish, water quality and aquatic plants. This understanding will help improve the management of lakes.

Waterschap Hunze en Aas have played host to the first PSG of the partners in April. Alongside this they have begun the indepth analysis one of their largest lakes, Zuidlaardermeer, to allow them to begin planning the construction of new reedbeds so that they will have the maximum impact in improving the water quality of the lake. They have also begun consulting with their local farmers and stakeholders to build consensus on a new vision for their area. 


Our Belgian partners are working on the largest restoration area in the CANAPE family, aiming to raise the water level in 60ha of peatland in the famous Grenspark. The dry weather summer caused substantial damage to the plant-life on De Nol, in part because the current landscape drains the water away from the park, leaving the water level a substantial depth below the surface. As preparation for the start of construction on the site, ground penetrating radar was brought in to survey the depth of the impermeable clay layer below the surface, which will allow design of the clay screen to retain water in the Nol. 

As an unexpected bonus, the coverage of this event led to the word "Kleischerm" (meaning Clay-Screen) being listed as word of the week on the Taaltelefoon website.   

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