Russia – Decision Support System Peatland Utilisation

Restoration and Preservation of Peatlands in the European Part of Russia – Development of a Decision Support System (DSS) for the Protection of Climate and Biodiversity

While the European part of Russia previously held 120,000 square kilometres of intact mires, only half of this area has been preserved in a functional state today. Prior to 1990, many mires were drained for use in agriculture, forestry and peat production. After 1990, the Russian peat industry collapsed. As a result, many of the drained peatlands are now abandoned, continuously releasing greenhouse gases that negatively affect the climate. In addition, they pose an increased risk of peat fires, which can severely impact humans, peatlands and climate. Effective rewetting measures may drastically reduce the climatic impact and the fire danger and aid in the revitalisation of many peatland ecosystems.


Recently, the demand for peat has been on the increase, since Russia decided to raise the national energy production by means of peat combustion. This represents a relatively simple and readily available source of energy and allows the country to allocate a larger percentage of its oil and natural gas resources to the export market. Unfortunately, this development will also impact regions with fewer peatlands and peat reserves that have thus far remained largely untouched. The change in energy policy raises the danger that many hitherto undisturbed peatlands will be drained and exploited for peat extraction.


In this area of tension we face the challenge to identify the “best“ option for climate and biodiversity, while at the same time attempting to integrate the demands of the energy policy. As part of this project we developed a decision support system (DSS). Taking into account the various demands of conservation, peat extraction, rewetting, and additional forms of land use, this system will generate a “decision tree” that can point to win-win strategies and lead to optimal decision-making. Although, for conservation and climate protection in this case, “winning” may actually mean, “losing the least”.

The implementation of the DSS requires an inventory of the drained peatlands. Potential forms of land use for these peatlands (peat extraction, agriculture, forestry, paludiculture, nature conservation) will be analysed in regard to their restoration potential, climatic effects, and political demands.

The DSS also contributes to the supra-regional protection of peatland ecosystems, since the criteria developed within the DSS apply to Belarus and Ukraine, as well. These countries have developed similar government programmes that aim at the reactivation and intensification of peat extraction, especially in peatlands drained before 1990.


This project of the Michael Succow Foundation is financed  by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Gmbh (German Society for International Co-operation) as part of the International Climate Initiative. Project partners are the University of Greifswald, Wetlands International Russia, and the Institute of Forest Science at the Russian Academy of Sciences.



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