Ecosystem services as a concept are more and more at the forefront of discussions about the efficiency and assessment of natural and cultural heritage landscapes. Important milestones, for example, were the ’Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’ (MA 2005) and the study of ’The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (Teeb 2009). Moreover, there was a significant number of scientific papers that engaged in the discussion of ecosystem services. However, what has been missing so far was a set of indicators and assessment tools, which could be utilized in the practical day-to-day of environmental management. Above all, particularly sensitive areas like peatlands could benefit from methodical evaluation and assessment tools.
Due to their special hydrological conditions, peat soils of undisturbed peatlands, offer a wide range of valuable ecosystem services. They store huge amounts of carbon for the entire globe, have a balancing effect on local climate, provide buffer zones for the regional water and matter balance, and provide habitats to a range of unique and endangered species. But drainage and overexploitation lead to an ongoing decline of their various ecosystem services, or even turn them into disservices, which can lead to an environmental hazard.
The MA (2005) provides a general classification of ecosystem services into provisioning services (for example, the provision of food and drinking water), regulating services (for example, as beneficial to air quality), cultural services (for example, as places for recreation or tourismus), and basic services (such as soil formation or nutrient circulation).
The research project focused on the basic and balancing services, and singled out only those relevant to peatlands:
We are presenting an assessment tool with indicators and selectable parameters for the specified ecosystem services of peatlands, which enables both scientists and practitioners to apply them in their study or landscape planning and management work.
What makes this tool special is the utilization of soil data, which like for no other ecosystem are a source of information about condition, functionality and biotope quality, and therefore provide a very high value as indicators. Moreover, vegetation and ground water data are used as additional input information.
Regarding climate protection services, a complex assessment approach has been established for the first time, which integrates the C (carbon) pool, the vulnerable C pool and the labile and vulnerable C pool for the investigated peatlands.