Peatlands in Agricultural Areas: Conclusions from a Regional Workshop in France 

Peatlands are crucial for climate and biodiversity. Their fragile situation in Europe highlights the need for robust cooperation between sectors. Peatlands are also of great economic significance for different sectors; it is important that solutions take these economic needs into account. The first sectoral regional workshop organised by the European Landowners‘ Organisation during the Eurosite annual meeting in Amiens, France, demonstrated that progress is being made.

Published: 18 June 2024
Fieldtrip Peatlands in Agricultural areas - November 2023, Amiens, FRANCE

The main causes of peatland degradation in France are drainage for agriculture and forestry, by urban development, by peat extraction and by overgrazing. The majority of peatlands in France are used for agriculture or forestry. Peat extraction still continues on about 10 peatlands.    

The search for ways to rewet peatlands is in full swing. One solution is to market the accrued CO2 allowances after mitigation measures have been implemented. Another solution is paludiculture: growing common reed or cattail, growing sphagnum to replace peat in horticultural substrates, and using wet meadows for grazing. However, these are not yet general economically viable uses. 

Farmers need support  

Clara Diebolt from Network of Chambers of agriculture from the Atlantic Area (AC3A) highlighted a poignant issue: farmers may become the overlooked casualties in the necessary rewetting of peatlands used for agriculture, a process vital to reducing substantial greenhouse gas emissions from their soils.  

Douglas McMillan, representing a cooperative of individual Irish farmers brings a unique viewpoint shaped by his work in Ireland. Despite differences, his conclusion aligns with Diebolt’s: farmers need support. He advocates for adaptive measures to facilitate a shift from traditional peatland agriculture to sustainable, climate-conscious farming practices.  

Bridging a critical gap: monetising rewetted peatlands  

Maximillian Loessl, leads the startup Aeco aiming to bridge a critical gap: monetising rewetted peatlands and building an investable, implementation-ready peatland restoration project pipeline. Aeco creates and markets CO2 and ecosystem service certificates by collaborating with financial partners and the Eurosite network.  

This workshop pointed out again the necessity to define specifications for the good management of the wetlands involving all the actors of the environment. Every site is unique. And it is therefore important that landowners, site managers, decision makers and other stakeholders work together to define the most appropriate local solutions, keeping in mind these 10 ‘advises to success’ for rewetting projects in agricultural areas:

  1. Involve pioneer farmers, experts, specialized institutions to forge credibility to the statements and proposals
  1. Involve people from outside the area to provide a different perspective and broaden the discussion 
  1. Involve decision makers and local authorities 
  1. Do not focus only on the farming sector for change: broaden the discussion to other sectors 
  1. Alternative business models must guarantee farmer’s income. Farmers should be financially rewarded for rewetting peatlands, sequester carbon, improve biodiversity or water quality if this has an impact on their current productivity or workload  
  1. Available financial support must be equal to or even greater than those for drainage-based practices 
  1. Try to adapt existing models before shifting to new business models 
  1. Aim for diversification of income sources 
  1. Aim for clear political regulations on growing wet crops and rewetting soils 
  1. Farmers should be an integral part of the policy making while designing financial incentives related to rewetting 

Presentations are available upon request. Please contact:

Responsible for the content of this article is EUKI project Building a European Peatlands Alliance