Moors don't have a good reputation – but that's not fair. Ask people on the street what they associate with moorland landscapes and you'll soon enough hear about bog bodies, witches, or bleak and uninviting places where nobody wants to stay around and where careless hikers quickly disappear, never to be seen again. Most of these connections echo children's fairy tales and horror stories. A deeper look, however, shows that moors are places teeming with life that play a surprisingly vital role for biodiversity and climate protection. One should not be afraid of moors, but instead fear a world without them.
That's why Volkswagen Financial Services have been close partners for ten years with NABU, Germany's largest environmental protection and nature conservation association, talking together and engaging in joint projects to ensure the protection of moorland areas and fund the rewetting of dried-out moors – both within and outside Germany.
No climate protection or biodiversity without moorland conservation
Intact moors are among the most important carbon sinks or reservoirs in the world. The enormous significance of these ecosystems for climate protection is barely noticed. Although they cover only three percent of the world's land surface, they contain a third of terrestrial carbon reserves (i.e. reserves bound in the soil) – twice as much as in all the world's forests put together. Intact, i.e. peat-forming moors grow by around one millimeter a year, which enables them to bind a further 250 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the air.
However, living or growing moors are now rare due to many years of use for agriculture and peat extraction. In Germany, for example, 95 percent of the original 1.5 million hectares of moorland has already been dewatered, peat-exhausted, built upon, or used for agricultural and forestry purposes. During the drainage and the accompanying aeration of the peat body, it oxidizes and enters the atmosphere as the climate-damaging greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).
On top of that, moors are crucially important for biodiversity. Moors are vital habitats in which unique biocenoses (biotope-specific ecological communities) with highly specialized species develop over time. Moors also have an important function as resting and breeding grounds for many birds.
In the course of moor re-naturalization, the original water level is restored in order to permanently secure the bound carbon in the soil and create suitable conditions for peat-forming plants. Therefore, moor protection programs and re-naturalization projects with the aim of rehydrating the moors are not just measures to preserve native biodiversity, but also help stop the further degradation of the peat bodies and thus significantly reduce the emission of climate-relevant gases in Germany and worldwide.
No indiscriminate scattering of funds, but a regional commitment
Support for moorland conservation projects in the region lies at the heart of the collaboration between Volkswagen Financial Services and NABU. The acceptance of the local population is particularly important when planning and implementing the individual measures. The greater the connection to, feelings for and understanding of the moorland protection projects, the easier it is for NABU, for instance, to achieve the necessary land exchanges or purchases.
This approach has already enabled NABU to implement extensive re-naturalization measures. Here are some examples: the 240-hectare Theikenmeer moorland (in the District of Emsland) is once again a species-rich habitat – for adders, snipes and wild orchids, for instance – and White Polled Heath sheep and goats can now graze in the area in harmony with nature. Secondly, the project area in the Lichtenmoor (District of Heidekreis) covering around 130 hectares is now home to the bog rosemary, the cranberry, the cranberry blue butterfly and various species of dragonflies again. The lowland region also remains an important base for the crane. The Große Moor (near Gifhorn) has also been successfully re-naturalized. The preparations for rewetting the moorland were set in motion in 2011. Large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions are being prevented as a result and a vital habitat for threatened animals and rare plants is also being protected at the same time. Around 150 animal and 40 plant species at home in the moorland are seen as endangered, and no fewer than eleven of them are directly threatened with extinction.
Moor Conservation Fund as start-up aid for projects
Many national and international nature conservation projects require start-up financing so that additional public funding can be collected and the moor conservation projects can thus achieve a broad and long-term financing base. This financial basis is provided by the German and the International Moor Conservation Fund, which Volkswagen Financial Services established jointly with NABU. The money enables many local NABU projects to be realized since the improved financial endowment makes it easier to contribute own capital resources within the framework of funding programs.
NABU and Volkswagen Financial Services established the German Moor Conservation Fund way back in 2011. Since 2012, Volkswagen Financial Services have provided the nature protection association with two million euros for moorland protection projects between the North Sea and the Alps. A total of 13 moorland areas are currently being protected and re-naturalized thanks to resources from the national fund. From 2017 to 2020 Volkswagen Financial Services will be investing an additional one million euros in the German Moor Conservation Fund. The International Moor Conservation Fund was established in 2015 after its German counterpart and focuses on the re-naturalization of moors in the Baltic States. The first project funded is located on Poland's Baltic Sea coast, in the Slowinski National Park. Altogether, Volkswagen Financial Services are donating one million euros to NABU for international projects to protect and preserve moorland areas.