Ecologist’s Diary with Gesche Blume-Werry: End-of-season season’s greetings!

One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.
One of our field sites: a re-wetted coastal wetland at the Baltic sea.

Finally, the end of the field-season has also reached me in the temperate peatlands. I’m not yet sure if it’s an advantage or disadvantage, that, after moving from the sub-Arctic to the temperate zone, my field-season is suddenly MUCH longer… Anyway, after a long period of preparation, we were finally ready to install tea- and litterbags in the field for our project about plant biomass production in drained and re-wetted peatlands. Things weren’t exactly made easy by the facts that a large part of those bags were root litterbags (and thus -obviously- needed to be installed at depth), that it was November and thus rainy and cold, and that parts of the bags needed to be installed in/below standing water (using waders and a clever combination of veterinarian gloves and standard rubber gloves, plus a good amount of duct tape).

Uh, root litterbags hidden here!
Uh, root litterbags hidden here!

Why am I working with roots in (very wet) peatlands, you ask? Maybe because although peatlands only cover 3% of the lands surface, they store twice as much carbon as the world’s forests, maybe because drained peatlands only make up 6% of agriculturally used land in Germany, but are responsible for 99% of the CO2 emissions from agricultural soils. Or maybe because re-wetting peatlands may help reducing carbon emissions, and because roots, which are a large part of plant biomass and production, are responsible for the peat in these temperate fens, and thus key players in the carbon cycling? Yes, all of the above, but also because it is also a lot of fun!

Heavy science on a November field day.
Heavy science on a November field day.

After two weeks of intense fieldwork, we had very sore muscles and very dirty clothes but also experienced this blissful happiness that you get from tiring days out in the field. Everything worked out, there were no major injuries (to plants or people), and it even seems like each of the roughly 3000 little bags was put into the right place – that is just an awesome feeling!

With that, I wish you all a very happy Christmas break, and a Happy New Year!


Gesche Blume-Werry, @gescheBW Umeå Univerity, Sweden & University of Greifswald, Germany.

Read more Ecologist’s Diary or more posts by Gesche.

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