Peatlands cover only 2-3% of the world’s land surface, but they contain carbon stocks equivalent to 100 years of current fossil fuel emissions. In Belarus, BirdLife Partners are restoring 51,000 ha of degraded peatland, turning the land from a net source of carbon into a net sink and creating important habitats for threatened bird species.
Peatland is one of the most important carbon storing habitats in the world. Around 14% of Belarus land area was once peatland, but agriculture, peat extraction and drainage has resulted in the land cover of this habitat being reduced to just 6.9% of the country (Minaeva et al. 2008). Carbon emissions from degrading peatlands is high, with Belarus ranking third behind Indonesia and Estonia, at 1.99 tonnes per hectare in 2008 (Tanneberger et al. 2011). Peatland restoration is therefore an important method for emission reduction, and is the focus of several re-wetting projects across the country (Tanneberger et al. 2011).
An area of 260,000 ha has the potential for re-wetting in Belarus, and a total area of 28,208 ha of degraded peatland has so far been re-wetted through a project ran by United Nations Development Programme and the Belarusian Ministry of Forestry (Tanneberger et al. 2011), whilst a BirdLife Partner is restoring an additional 51,000 ha.
As well as being important carbon sinks, peatlands provide important habitat for a range of bird species. Re-wetting of the Poplau Moch site in Belarus demonstrates how the process can be beneficial for emissions and biodiversity, with the maintenance of a diverse habitat enabling dry forest and scrub species as well as wetland birds and Lesser Spotted Eagles Clanga pomarina to inhabit the restored land (Tanneberger et al. 2011). Other re-wetted sites aim to provide important habitat for globally threatened species such as the Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola and Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga.
This case study is taken from ‘The Messengers: What birds tell us about threats from climate change and solutions for nature and people’. To download the report in full click here.
Compiled: 2015 Copyright: 2015
BirdLife International (2015) Peatland restoration in Belarus is reducing emissions while saving waterbirds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/11/2018