The restoration of the wetlands helps to decrease climate change and increase diversity 02.02
The key word of today’s World Wetlands Day is call for action. Estonia has been actively engaged in the natural restoration of wetlands throughout the last decade.Drained bogs are one of the main greenhouse gas emitters but the state of many bogs can be improved with restoration activities – the peat will begin to regenerate and store carbon.
Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar emphasises that not all dried bogs or farmlands will be transformed back to bogs. “Our first priorities are areas of international importance which are the damaged parts of the bogs on the Ramsar Convention and Natura 2000 areas and the easiest bogs to restore with reasonable expenses,” he explains. “We have also taken into consideration the fact that the restoration will positively impact the living environment and protected species.
RMK has done a good job in restoring the bogs in the administrative area of the Ministry of the Environment during the eleven years.”
The restoration of the water regime of damaged bogs has been successful elsewhere: if the environmental development planned aims to restore at least 10,000 ha of damaged bog communities and to turn at least 1000 ha of peat mining lands back into wetlands for 2020, these aims have already been surpassed today.
“RMK has restored almost 17,000 hectares of mire habitats, including more than 1000 hectares of abandoned peat mining areas and the volume of work will also not decrease during the following years,” Head of RMK’s Nature Protection Department Kaupo Kohv stated.
According to Kohv, Kikepera and Tolkuse in Pärnu County, Sirtsi in Viru County and Rubina in Valga County are some of the largest bogs where the drainage ditches were blocked and other necessary work to restore the humidity were completed. Currently, they are working on restoring Ess-soo bog in Võru County and Nigula Bog in Pärnu County and Visja Fen in Rapla County. This year, they are planning to start restoration works in Puhatu Wetland Complex, Parika Raised Bog in Viljandi County, Jalase Bog in Rapla County ja Laiküla Bog in Lääne County.
RMK has mainly used the EU Cohesion Fund’s money to restore the bogs’ hydrological regime. Out of the European Union Structural Fund towards environmental protection, we have used ca 4.8 million euros to restore 9346 hectares of bogs during 2014-2020. Additionally, RMK restores the natural state of peat production areas on 2000 hectares for ca 3.1 million euros. RMK’s own contribution is added to those sums. To restore bogs, RMK has carried out large-scale LIFE projects under the leadership of Estonian Fund for Nature and Tallinn University.
The high demand for high-quality horticultural peat continuously maintains the peatlands. At the moment, there are 128 operating peat mining areas where the licenses are valid until 2050. Annually, 400-900 tonnes of peat is mined which is mainly used in crop production. Regulation of the Minister of the Environment has established a list of peatlands disturbed and abandoned by extraction as well as peatlands suitable for extraction. Peat mining is prohibited in areas not on this list. Currently, this list consists of ca 150,000 hectares of dried peatlands but this does not automatically imply a mining license, a thorough evaluation of the impacts precedes the granting of the license.
More than half of our naturally preserved bogs are under protection in Estonia.
Nature Conservation Advisor at the Estonian Ministry of the Environment
Head of RMK’s Nature Protection Department