Swamps in Northern Germany

Northern Germany‘s nature doesn’t seem too interesting and compared to South Africa, there’s a lot less biodiversity due to the cold climate and rough weather. But one biome, that is mostly exclusive to Northern Germany, with some sprinkled throughout the most southern parts of the country, are swamps.
They are a type of habitat, that evolves over a long period of time. An average swamp grows around one millimeter a year and takes 10.000 years to develope to a depth of about 10 meters. For a swamp to develop, it needs lots of rain and a high air-humidity. They develope in low set areas, near ditches and small rivers.
Dead, organic matter, falls into the ditch and gets saturated with minerals, these form the organic layer of the swamp, which also contains more CO2 than six-times the area of a 100-year-old forest. This organic matter used to be harvested and burned for warmth, up until the 20th century. Underneath are layers of lime and stone, which contain the swamp and deliver the neccesary minerals. There can also be a small river or still water in the middle of the swamps, with vegetation growing at the sides.
These create the perfect conditions for a high biodiversity. There are many different species of animals, that are exclusive to this biome. Which means that they’re also at risk.
Because of agriculture requiring more and more space, swamps are being drained and transformed into fields for the harvesting of crops. This doesn’t just put the animals living there in jeopardy, some even being put at risk of extinction, it also means, that the massive amounts of carbon, contained by the swamps are being set free. For reference, the swamps in Germany store around 44 million tons of CO2, while only occupying about 12,800 square kilometers, so one could imagine how disastrous the „opening“ of these „CO2 batteries“ could be.
The swamps are essential to the local ecosystem in many ways and the greed of farmers could soon destroy them. Even though swamps don’t need to be eradicated, to harvest from them. There are many plants, needed by humans, that can be grown in a sustainable way directly on the swamps surface. For example: certain types of wheats, potatoes, hemp, rhubarb and many other plants, which all grow very well on swamp grounds. Then what exactly is the problem? Why don’t farmers just grow their plants on the swamps instead of draining them?
Well, there are many problems and conditions specific to growing on swamp grounds, that makes growing complicated. Some of these include:

  • freezing during the spring
  • A higher number of weeds
  • Lots of effort needing to be put into regularly fertilizing the ground

It is also important to regularly change the types of plants being grown on the field. All these factors scare off farmers, who strive for a simple efficient way to grow and harvest their crops.
It is hard to convince farmers, of how important the swamps are, because they, of course, need to take care of their profit margin, as to not go hungry.
It’s a complicated issue with high stakes, but one thing stays objectively true:
We need to protect and recover the swamps, because they play a giant role for the biodiversity and climate of Germany.

-Amelie Badendiek

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