Craneland Peatland Centre

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Case study

Situated in the northeast Moscow Province, the Dubna wetland complex comprises lakes, floodplain meadows, fens, transitional mires, raised bogs, and waterlogged black alder thickets interspersed with agricultural lands. Natural values of the Dubna peatlands were described in the 1920s by the writer Mikhail Prishvin in his well-known story “The Crane Homeland”.


The Craneland became a protected area in 1979 when a regional zakaznik was established there at the initiative of a student environment conservation squad at the Biology Faculty of Moscow State University. In the years that followed, a network of protected nature areas was established in the Dubna region. These protected areas now cover over 32,000 ha and include nesting grounds and stopover sites of migrating birds, relict landscapes – raised bogs, glacial lakes, riverheads, old coniferous and floodplain black alder forests.

The Dubna peatlands were drained for agricultural and forestry purposes in 1926-1928 and in 1975-1977. Like many other peatlands in the recent decade, the Craneland zakaznik faced the problem of fires on drained peatlands. It became evident that drained peatlands, especially abandoned peat mining sites needed rewetting through the construction of permanent or temporary structures which hold back water in drainage waterways.

This complex and longtime work requires raising awareness among all stakeholders ranging from local communities to decision makers.

To support the implementation of these activities, the Craneland education center on peatland conservation and restoration, incorporating a visitor centre (the Peatland Museum), surrounding demonstration sites, nature trails and other facilities, was established in the area under the Project on Restoring Peatlands in Russia.

The peatland centre is managed by the Taldom Administration of Protected Areas that performed the following activities from 2012 to 2014:

  • A building of the Craneland Zakaznik’s biological station was renovated to host the Peatland Centre; in particular, a room was equipped for lectures, workshops, and classes for various target groups with an all-year-round access;
  • A peatland museum exposition was installed and opened to the public on May 9, 2014. It includes information stands, dioramas, and an interactive exhibition on peatland biodiversity;
  • A nature discovery trail was established across an intact raised bog;
  • Twelve demonstration dams and dikes of various types were built for visitors to see peatland rewetting techniques. These constructions were complemented by boardwalks, benches and information billboards;
  • Booklets about the Peatland Centre were published; and an action plan for educational and awareness-raising events and excursions was developed. It is planned that the centre will become a facility for long-term environmental education activities in the Craneland Zakaznik.

During its first year of operation the Craneland peatland centre has already welcomed over 1,500 visitors. They included university students and academics (Moscow State Pedagogical University, Moscow Sholochov State University and Dubna International University for Nature, Society and Man), representatives of local authorities, school children from the wider region and from Moscow and various interested individuals (casual visitors of the reserve). The centre hosted several public lectures: ‘What is a peatland?’, ‘CO2 emissions and peatland restoration’, ‘Plants and animals of peatlands’ and ‘Biodiversity of peatlands’. The nature discovery trail has become popular especially for school excursions.

On 15-17 June 2015 the centre was a venue for ‘Seminar on hydrological principles, hydro-engineering approaches, methods and experiences of planning rewetting of peatland for mire-regeneration’ organized by the Project. Among the participants were invited international experts from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Belarus and Germany, as well as hydrologists involved in preparation of ecological rewetting designs and representatives of local authorities, universities, national parks and environmental NGOs from Russia.

Both international and invited Russian experts in eco-hydrology and restoration gave presentations on best practice examples from their work and with a full overview on all steps to be included in the planning of peatland restoration. In total, 17 such lectures (presentations) were held. An extra session on buffer zones around rewetting sites was added.

Participants from four countries took part at the seminar (photo: O. Grinchenko)

 

At each day the seminar included a comprehensive field excursion. First two days, the participants visited several sites rewetted by Moscow Province near the venue. This gave a chance to inspect and to discuss various technical aspects of rewetting by the use of hydro-technical facilities with combination with ecological approach. To provide a contrast, one excursion was organized to the neighbouring Tver Province at the recently rewetted peatland Mokhovoye II. It is an example of primary ecological approach promoted by the Project.  Already a few months after the finish of the rewetting activities the water level rose substantially and the water is able to flow into the former extraction fields.Sphagnum moss is recovering, especially in the drainage channels, and is spreading on the peat fields. Wetland birds like the common tern started to use the site as a breeding ground.

The seminar provided suitable opportunity for exchange of opinions and knowledge related to rewetting and ecological restoration of peatlands, how to organize the whole process efficiently and cost-effectively and how to reach the multiple goals of fire prevention, GHG emission reduction and restored