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Institute of

WO Forest Ecosystems


Peatland monitoring - forest

© Cornelius Oertel

Background and Objective

At around 3%, peatlands account for only a small proportion of the forest area in Germany. Nevertheless, they are an important carbon sink. In the case of drained peatlands and half-bogs they are a significant source of greenhouse gases. Drained peatland soils covered with forest emit about 60% of the emissions emitted by much larger mineral arable soils in Germany. Nearly 100% of organic soils covered with forest are considered drained.

The preservation of stored carbon and the increase of carbon in organic soils is of great importance for climate protection. In order to obtain accurate figures for greenhouse gas reporting, the Thünen Institute for Forest Ecosystems is establishing a nationwide peatland soil monitoring program in the forest sector. For this purpose, 50 monitoring sites are selected nationwide. The work is coordinated with the peatland soil monitoring in the open countryside, which is being implemented by the Thünen Institute for Climate-Smart Agriculture.

In addition to determining the carbon storage in the soil and estimating the greenhouse gas emissions, the carbon storage in the stand is also determined in order to ensure a holistic determination of the system. Particularly in the case of heavily degraded peatlands and half-bogs, the question arises as to how large the carbon storage in the remaining peat layer is in comparison to the carbon storage of the forest stand. The results will show where a revitalization is highly recommended and where the preservation of the current stand is more reasonable.


The 50 monitoring sites are categorized according to the type of peatland (e.g. peat bog and fen), the stand (e.g. spruce, pine, birch, alder) and the condition (semi-natural and drained). In order to derive statements on emissions and stored carbon at the sites, the peat thickness and the change in terrain elevation are determined. Both are measures of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon uptake. Among other factors, the groundwater level is recorded as a control variable for this process.

Furthermore, detailed soil and vegetation analyses will be conducted at all sites. At selected sites, a direct analysis of greenhouse gas emissions will be performed using the automatic chamber systems.

Picture gallery

Monitoring of peatland soils

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