Wetland Energy - Sustainable Use of Wet Peatlands in Belarus

Implementation of New Management Concepts in Wet Peatlands for Sustainable Biomass Production for Energy Utilisation

 

Especially in degraded peatlands that have been rewetted, paludiculture (from Latin “palus” – “swamp” or “mire”), the wet cultivation of peatlands, offers a perfect opportunity for sustainable use. It includes the traditional forms of peatland utilisation (reed mowing, litter removal) as well as new methods, such as the use of peatland biomass for energy production and the production of insulation boards and insulating plaster. The main goal is the preservation of the peat layer. Paludiculture also allows renewed peat formation, e.g., during the process of reed mowing, whereby the aboveground biomass is harvested while the belowground biomass can accumulate to form a new peat layer.

 

Building on the experience of the Michael Succow Foundation with rewetting of peatlands, a pilot site for the cultivation of wet peatlands for biomass production is being established in Belarus as part of a demonstration project. The project may also prove beneficial for climate and biodiversity. In co-operation with local entities (zakazniks , peat factories, kolkhozes, local energy providers) the present utilisation of peatlands, which is neither socially, economically nor ecologically sustainable, will be transformed into a sustainable land use system. The new system will replace the use of fossil fuels and open new economic opportunities in rural areas. An additional project goal is the renewed cultivation of currently abandoned wet meadows, fostering the preservation of breeding grounds for the Aquatic Warbler and hunting grounds for the Greater Spotted Eagle.

 

Using a practical example, we will attempt to develop perspectives for the cultivation of wet peatlands, which were formerly used for litter and hay extraction. After these traditional and sustainable forms of land use were abandoned, the sites are now threatened by the encroachment of bushes and trees. This will eventually lead to the loss of valuable habitat for many rare species of open landscapes, e.g., the Aquatic Warbler. The biomass will be harvested in certain intervals (the length of which is yet to be determined) and processed into energy briquettes. A special harvesting machine will be acquired for the activities on the site, and another will be developed on the basis of Belarussian technology. In addition, the project will aid in the development of a biomass processing chain.

 

The project also intends to facilitate the integration of newly rewetted, previously cut peatlands into a modern use regime. In the long run, this will allow replacing the peat that is now being used in the production of energy briquettes with biomass from the rewetted areas. The Lida peat factory in western Belarus has shown a keen interest in gradual replacement of peat with biomass. It therefore co-operates with our project and has offered the use of its facilities. The project aims at setting an example for other peat briquette factories in Belarus by demonstrating that it is possible to switch from the exploitative use of peat resources to a sustainable production of biomass briquettes.

 

The project is carried out in co-operation with the International Sacharov Environmental University (ISEU) and the Institute for Nature Management (IfNM) of the Academy of Sciences in Belarus. Other institutes at the Academy of Sciences, as well as the University of Greifswald and the Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) in Müncheberg, Germany, are also involved in the project. Financial support is provided by the EU commission under the topical programme EuropeAid for "Environmental protection and sustainable cultivation of natural resources, including energy.”

 

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Project coordination:

Wendelin Wichtmann, email: wendelin.wichtmann@succow-stiftung.de