Undisturbed peatlands with high levels of water provide complex and important ecosystem services. They are the habitats of rare plants and animal species, and can store vast amounts of carbon dioxide in the form of soil carbon within the peat. Furthermore, such peatlands are characteristic for their capacity to act as sinks and filters for pollutants/nutrients, and they create buffer zones for the regional water balance. Therefore, they are regarded as essential for the regional climate system.
In Berlin, there are peatlands of varying characteristics within the urban area. Urban, or anthropogenic influences of all kinds, such as city planning, construction, or drainage for drinking water supply have left their mark on them. Through aeration and peat decomposition, large amounts of CO2 and pollutants/nutrients are released. What follows in the wake of drainage and eutrophication, is a supression of the original peatland flora and fauna. Favourable soil-physical properties, however, such as that for water storage and oscillation during dry periods are heavily counter-balanced by processes of peat-shrinking, structural changes and afforestation (Zeitz 2014). This means that the peatland’s natural power to provide ecosystem services is severely out-of-balance.
Additionally, the vulnerability of Berlin’s peatlands increase with the predicted ongoing rise of temperature (climate change), as well as a decline in precipitation and ground water levels.
From 2011–2015, the Division of Soil Science and Site Science of Humboldt University Berlin has worked on the project „Berlin's Peatlands and Climate Change“, and developed a system of indicators with which to assess the ecosystem services on the basis of soil, site and vegetation properties and to identify priorities for action. For this purpose, a comprehensive soil investigation of the entire peatland area in Berlin was conducted, where all peatlands were assessed by a three-level indicator system. On this website, you’ll be introduced to the assessment approach and the assessment results, as well as to the aims and instruments suggested for an adaptation strategy.
This project was funded by the Senate of Berlin and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund).