Pilot project “Severny”

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Case study

A 1170-ha section of the Severny peat mining site, also known as the Bublik Site, drained for agricultural use and peat extraction is located in the center of the Dubna forested peatland complex in the southern Upper Volga Lowland. The site borders the Craneland Zakaznik. The site was drained twice, in 1924–1926 and in 1974–1976. The drainage project was supposed to adapt the site to mechanized harvesting of crops and peat extraction. In the course of its exploitation, a settlement of ground led to a several-fold reduction of permeability coefficients and a formation of closed hollows that collected water. Moreover, some engineering miscalculations were identified. In 1987–1988, the drainage network was rebuilt, but, according to experts, no effective drainage of the site for agricultural use was ever provided.

The Dubna forested peatland area, the Taldom and Sergiyev-Posad Districts of the Moscow Province. State Nature Reserves (Zakazniki) are outlined in red; the orange patch is the site subject to rewetting and subsequent monitoring of vegetation and bird fauna.

The first peat fire on the drained site occurred in June 2000. Later on, fires became annual.

This peatland site has a long history of restoration efforts. In 2001, drainage canals were dammed under the Wetlands International Russia’s project “Research and restoration of the water regime in the Dubna peatland area”, which resulted in an increase of water storage in the northern portion of the site. In 2011, a complex of hydraulic facilities was designed for the Severny peat deposit under the peatland rewetting programme of the Moscow Regional Government. This project was implemented in 2012–2013 and provided a water level rise due to the retention of spring flood surface runoff by overflow dams and blocking of main and secondary drainage canals by hydraulic locks.

In 2013, some design solutions were developed under the project on “Restoring peatlands in Russia – for fire prevention and climate change mitigation” aimed to optimize rewetting of the Severny peatland in terms of maximizing the groundwater level rise and restoring the peatland. The project was implemented in winter 2013–2014. Water retaining dams of several constructive types were built and stabilized with boards and willow plantations.

The rewetted site has been used as a pilot for experimental research into carbon balance and for monitoring vegetation and wildlife status in the Dubna peatland area.

The first monitoring programme for vegetation and fauna in the Craneland Zakaznik was launched in 2004 under the Wetlands International Рroject on Conservation of peatlands in Central Russia: peatland ecosystem management based on wise use principles. In subsequent years, the RAS Institute of Forest Science conducted monitoring for water level and greenhouse gas emissions at both degraded and intact peatlands. These studies were continued in the framework of the project “Restoring peatlands in Russia – for fire prevention and climate change mitigation”. In 2014, permanent plots for botanical studies were established on the three rewetting levels at the Severny peatland and on the rewetted test site. The current status of bird population was analyzed in comparison with that of 2004.

The monitoring will be continued, with particular goals being (1) to develop prognoses on how rewetting affects cutover peatlands and (2) to make recommendations on nature-friendly peatland uses in the area.