CANAPE: The long hot summer....

24 August 2018 - Published by Harry Mach
Europe has sweltered under a heatwave all summer. And we have noticed the effects on our landscape.

Pictured above: Algal bloom triggered by the hot weather leaking into the River Bure CREDIT: Mike Page. 

Hot weather is great - ice cream, swimming, sailing, hiking, the long hot summer has provided us many opportunities to enjoy all of these things. On the other hand, we are also experiencing the environmental affects of hot weather, which has caused particular issues in our peatland ecosystems. On one of our sites, Holter Meer, the water level fell 70cm during the summer. 

In the Netherlands and in the UK, our partners are struggling with cynabacteria, so-called "Blue-Green Algae" which has bloomed and rendered many areas of water unsuitable for swimming and recreation. Blue-Green Algal blooms develop when there is a mixture of water temperatures over 25 degrees and nutrient pollution in the water, and can outcompete other algae's eutrophic lakes, and release toxins which can cause harm to humans and can prove deadly for pets and wildlife. 

Through our work in CANAPE we will be seeking to reduce the amount of pollution in our lakes through construction of new reed edges. These reed banks absorb nutrients, and at the same time rewetted peatland around our waterways can act as a filter preventing the nutrient inflow into the lakes, reducing the number of algal blooms.

Ranworth broad turning green

Peatland lakes turning green with algae in the Broads National Park - CREDIT: Mike Page

With global temperatures expected to rise due to global warming, leading to a rise in average summer water temperatures, it is inevitable that algal blooms will become more common unless we can take action to reduce the nutrient pollution in our water. By constructing marshes along our lake edges, we are future proofing our lakes to allow us to continue using them for recreation into the future. 

In Denmark the drained peatlands have caught fire, fortunately quickly put out by the fire service, but this is a reminder of the lack of resilience drained land has to fire. Historically peat was dried for fuel, if we drain our farmland it is vulnerable to wildfire, which can burn deep into the peat and by very difficult to extinguish. Such wildfires have been seen around Europe over this summer. In comparison, a properly intact raised bog such as the Lille Vildmose in far more resistant to the dought, and less impacted. Through CANAPE we are seeking to expand the restored areas of Lille Vildmose, widening this resilience, and introduce new sphagnum bogs to Store Vildmose. 

In Belgium, De Nol in the famous Grenspark has received substantial coverage as it suffers in the drought, made worse by its current drained state. This has led to a loss of plant life and loss of habitat in an important nature area. With CANAPE support, Natuurpunt will construct a new clay screen to retain more water in the Nol, raising the average water level by 40cm in 60ha of land. This will help protect the habitat in periods of dry weather, which we can expect to become more common in the future. 

For more information about the actions we are taking at each location, please visit our sites page.

BelowTechnicians use radar to determine the depth of clay below De Nol - before the drought the water level in the ditch was level with the surface