One of the positive aspects of the LIFE projects is the networking, building up a cooperation between affiliated LIFE teams. In our project, we are particularly concerned by the restoration of water regime in the landscape and that was the reason why we decided to visit other teams with similar interests. In September, we seized the opportunity and left for our first study trip to Latvia and Estonia, two Baltic states with an enormous tradition in mire restoration.
In Latvia, we met a group of researchers and mire specialists, headed by Māra Pakalne, who are already working on the 6th LIFE project on mire restoration in a row. In their recent project, the mire is perceived as a biotope, which is extremely effective in storing carbon and therefore keeps greenhouse gases in balance. However, despite all (the) efforts of local nature protectionists, Latvia in its mire conservation programme is nowadays at a crossroads. There are lots of international and local companies keeping on extracting peat on 3% of the entire surface. It is no secret that the main importer of the Baltic peat is the market of Western Europe/are the WE countries.
In the Kemeri National Park, we could admire the true space of Baltic mires in its (their) vastness. The typical picture of a protected area, recognised and dedicated to achieve a long-term mire conservation, is that of a myriad of bogpools, typical dwarf-shrub vegetation with low pine trees on one side and, on the other side, areas affected by industrial peat extraction, eventually restored. At the end of our tour, our Latvian colleagues showed us the Kemeri Information Centre, designated and fully equipped for ecological education and cooperation with local schools.
During our stay, we were able to visit a number of similar mire sites which used to be drained by man and restored subsequently/afterwards. In particular, Sudas Zvidedru and the Ziemelu National Park were concerned in Latvia, then Soosaare and Tudusoo in Estonia, where there is a project „LIFE Mires of Estonia“ going on. There was also a lot to see in Estonia. Concerning the restoration measures and their application, the Baltic LIFE teams were not afraid of using more radical interventions than is/would be usually accepted in the Czech Republic. In many cases, it was confirmed that a perfect restoration result can be achieved by applying ostensibly harsh techniques; if a man decides to make changes in his attempt to conciliate nature, it often works. This is the key point!
We learnt how to re-wet wide extracted strips (called trenches) or how to cope with absence of suitable material for infilling the drainage channels or building up the dam covers by creating depressions directly in the drainage ditches or, alternately at the side banks. With these methods, we do not only solve the problem of missing material, but they can also enable creation of new microhabitats for rare vegetal and animal species.
Except for concrete examples of mire restorations, we were particularly interested in communication with general public. Therefore we spent our last afternoon at a new educational trail where we discussed several best-practice approaches in reaching as much audience involved in mire restoration and protection as possible. Undoubtedly, the personal approach and regular meetings of stakeholders are the best options to keep. We found lots of activities, e.g. „mire games“ for children, very inspiring. All in all, our study trip to Latvia and Estonia has been an enriching experience, whether as a result of getting new information, or finding new LIFE colleagues and friends with whom we definitely want to stay in touch and build closer cooperation.