English Summary

Let the raised bogs grow

The “Deurnsche Peel” and “Mariapeel” are Natura 2000 sites in the south-east of the Netherlands. Both areas, well known for their peat-soil, are of great importance because they contribute to the ecological variation within the EU priority habitat type, active raised bogs. This vast area was also of historical importance, providing fuel for households in the previous centuries (peat bogs) and is nowadays the habitat of some 90 nesting birdspecies and many wintering and migrating birds (a.o. crane, goose). Unique butterflies, dragonflies and the rare smooth snake can also be found here.

The habitats of active raised bogs and regenerative raised bogs are currently threatened by eutrophication, dehydration and invasion by an exotic plant species. LIFE+ Peelvenen is one of the projects that aims to restore the active raised bogs in Peelvenen. Water is of key importance: sphagnum, the main planttype in a raised bog habitat, is dependent on stable water levels and low nutrient levels in the water. The project, therefore will undertake hydrological measures to avoid dehydration and the influx of nutrient-rich water from surrounding cattle farmland. Additionally, the project aims to improve the accessibility of the area for recreational visitors and preserve the cultural history in the area.

Removal of the invasive alien species Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum – Trosbosbes)

   

Removing the invasive blueberry is necessary for the development of raised bogs in the Peelvenen. The plant desiccates raised bog, it overshadows and yields excessive supplies of nutrients through leaf fall. In the 1950’s the Highbush Blueberry was introduced on nurseries in the Netherlands. The plants origine is Northern America. These nurseries are located on former peatland, nearby the last remaining raised bogs in the southeast of the country. The blueberry develops at its best on peaty moisty soil with al low PH (4-5). Birds ate the berries from the nurseries en droped the seeds in the nature reserve Mariapeel. There it has covered an area of more than 1200 ha. in de the last 50 years. On 300 ha with a verry high abundance. The strong plants survive the winter en can grow to 2-3m high. The leaf and branches tastes bitter so it wil not be eaten bij cattle and the plants can grow freely.

After a case study the methode of elimination was selected;  not grazing, cutting, mowing or use of chemicals but extracting the plant one by one, by hand or by crane. This is not an easy job. For an impression of the method, watch the video below.

The blueberry plants will be removed from the nature reserve, but maintenance will be necesarry. The methode is tested and can be used in other raised bog area’s. The dehydration, eutrophication and overshadowing of raised bog will be reduced.

The next four aspects make the project sustainable:

  1. We are changing de watersystem (higher water levels) so that it will be harder for new blueberry to develope in this area. The plant developes well on dehydrated peatland not on wet soil.
  2. The costs of the maintenance in the next 5 years is granted for by the province Limburg. Extracting young Blueberry plants is part of the N2000 conservation plan. Staatsbosbeheer will start the first round of maintenance this year.
  3. By removing all the plants at once the major source of blueberry seeds within the N2000 area is removed.
  4. There are only a few fertile plants left at the nursery surrounding the nature reserve. These plants will be removed on short notice because the consumers demands sterile species (no seeds in the berry).

LIFE+ Peelvenen has many project partners who work together to restore the habitat. The project started in 2012 and will be completed in 2018. The total costs of the LIFE + Peelvenen project are estimated at EUR 6.3 million. The European Commission will contribute EUR 2.3 million EUR (EU subsidy Natura 2000). The remaining sum will be raised by the project partners.

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LIFE 11 NAT/NL/777  Life+Peelvenen – let the raised bogs grow –