Project type: Land Use and Forestry
Project location: Switzerland, Neuchâtel
Project status: In Operation, exclusive
This carbon offset project involves the renaturalisation of the upland moor in Sous-Martel-Dernier, reducing the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Climate protection is not the only advantage arising from rewetting however, since biodiversity, the water table and tourism are also set to benefit, as is the local construction industry.
In their natural state, moors have enormous carbon storage potential. Globally, moors store 30 per cent of soil carbon, despite the fact that they cover only three per cent of the world’s surface. In the past, many of Switzerland’s moors were dried out using drainage ditches so that people could use the land for agriculture or harvest peat. Although they have been protected since the Rothenthurm Initiative in 1987, two thirds of the country’s moors, which number over 500, are still in their drained state due to a lack of money. As a result, CO₂ continually passes into the atmosphere. Only rewetting guarantees that a drained moor is restored as a long-term store of CO₂.
The nature reserve at Tourbières des Ponts-de-Martel is one of the largest areas of natural moorland in Switzerland. Parts of the moor at Sous-Martel-Dernier in the canton of Neuchâtel – a moorland of national importance – are still in a drained state due to a lack of funds. The carbon offset project will close this funding gap and is therefore of key importance for this 1.8-hectare renaturalisation project, which was conducted by the canton of Neuchâtel.
On drained moorland, oxygen penetrates into the soil and converts the bound carbon in the peat soil into CO₂, which then escapes into the atmosphere. To rewet moorland, the drainage ditches must be closed off structurally. As soon as the moor returns to its natural intact state, the high water level inhibits the decomposition of the organic material in which large amounts of CO₂ are permanently stored. The carbon offset project is made possible thanks to a new methodology used by the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, which estimates the amount of CO₂ emissions that are avoided as a result of rewetting. According to this approach, the top 50 cm of renaturalised moorland will bind the emissions of over 1,000 tonnes of CO₂ per hectare over the next 50 to 100 years.
It’s not for nothing that moors are protected areas. They are hotspots of biodiversity, since intact moorland provides habitats for rare or even endangered animal and plant species. Renaturalisation also improves flood protection, prevents water pollution, and improves the micro-climate and the landscape. Moorlands provide people with recreational space too, while the funds for the upkeep of the moor mostly flow into regional businesses.