What's the point of renaturing moors? Moors with a Star

It's early morning on a summer day in 2014: Patrick Klusch, a trainee in his second year at Daimler, begins his working day not in a factory bay in Untertürkheim, as he usually does, but in a nature reserve, the moor area of Hinterzarten, the high-altitude climatic health resort in the Upper Black Forest.

A drain is getting closed with a barrier.

Together with 22 other trainees from Daimler he is actively assisting the Baden-Württemberg regional association of NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union) to renature the moor. Roll up his sleeves and get down to work – 20-year-old Patrick Klusch is accustomed to doing this in his everyday work as a prospective industrial mechanic. However, the chief task of the eager helpers in the moor area of Hinterzarten is a different one on this day – Patrick Klusch tells about the assignment: "Our objective is to prevent the moor in Hinterzarten, in the southern Black Forest, from being drained and releasing CO2." For this reason, all drainage ditches must be provided with locks to keep the water in and so regenerate the damaged moor.

But what is so important about moors? At present they cover only three percent of Earth's surface, however they store almost a third of the earthbound carbon. Protecting them is therefore one of the most important nature conservation and environmental protection concerns. Moors convert CO2 from the atmosphere into long-lived peat. This makes them the best natural carbon sinks – per hectare they bind four times more CO2 than, for instance, tropical forests. To enable them to accomplish their storage function they need a high water level all year round. If the groundwater level sinks and oxygen comes in contact with the carbon stored in the peat, CO2 escapes. This is due, on the one hand, to decreasing precipitation and longer dry spells, brought on by climate change, but also to the drainage of moor areas for use in agriculture and forestry.

In the 1930s ditches were dug in Hinterzarten so that the water from the moor could run off and the peat could be extracted. However, peat mining never was practiced there. The moor dried up. Through dessication, nature not only loses its CO2 sinks; numerous species of flora and fauna endemic to the moor also die out.

The renaturation of the Hinterzarten moor is part of the project "Moors with a Star", which Daimler is making possible with an earmarked donation. NABU, together with the state ministry responsible for nature conservation, selected suitable areas for the project. Moor expert Dr Pascal von Sengbusch, who knows the area, was commissioned by NABU to supervise the renaturation. Measure water levels, register vegetation, map ditches, make a computer model of the terrain: based on this data Sengbusch will be able to complete the overall planning in the summer and conclude the project by 2015.

"To prevent the water running off, we put sheet walls into the drainage ditches. Pascal von Sengbusch was there to give us expert advice on moor protection and explain to us how we should build these dams: sharpen the edge of wooden boards so that they can be rammed into the soil, saw slots into the peat, position the individual boards and drive them into the soil with a power hammer," Patrick Klusch excitedly tells us.

Klusch continues: "We had to divide the training group into two groups since only ten persons are allowed to enter the moor at one time."

While one group of trainees builds the dams, the other group does so-called maintenance work somewhere else in the moor. At the same time the future industrial mechanics and mechatronics specialists have to cut down spruce trees, which have spread due to the drying of the moor, and haul the logs out of the moor. The spruce trees extract water from the moor – water which is needed for survival by the bog pines, a plant species threatened by extinction.

In the course of the project the Bodenmöser Moor near Isny in the Allgäu region also will be saved. The planning work is in full swing and is scheduled to be completed in winter 2014/2015. Realization of the project begins there in 2015.

With the help of the Daimler trainees, work in the moor progresses smoothly on this day. And the deployment has further improved the atmosphere within the trainee group as well. Patrick Klusch: "In this course we all got to know each other even better and learned important things about environmental protection."

At the end of their project assignment the young people presented the result of their day's work to the Baden-Württemberg State Minister for Rural Affairs and Consumer Protection, Alexander Bonde. The mayor of Hinterzarten, Klaus-Michael Tatsch, stressed how valuable Daimler's financial commitment and the vigorous support from trainee groups are: "The moor renaturation is a genuine boon to the community, the region, our guests and our citizens."

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