Forest production on drained peatlands (Estonia)- The Workshop blogpost
On May 3rd 2023, the Prepsoil Soil Needs Workshop was held at the Visitor Centre of Soomaa National Park in Estonia. During the workshop, stakeholders from NGOs, science, forestry, state organisations and local communities discussed forestry and other local land-uses (nature protection, tourism, semi-natural grasslands) on peat soils in a regional and national context.
In the beginning of the workshop, the background about the Prepsoil project and soil needs (Dr. Sabine Jordan, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) but also the preliminary results of the interview study (Dr. Anna-Helena Purre, Elige LLC) were introduced and discussed with participants. Afterwards, local stakeholders gave insights from different angles on:
- the Soomaa National Park, its history, peculiarities, and land-use (Ms. Katrin Aavik; head of visitor centre in Soomaa National Park, part of local community)
- different infrastructure plans that have been prepared for Soomaa area but never realized (Mr. Aivar Ruukel; local tourism entrepreneur) the protection plan of the Soomaa National Park and visions for the future (Mr. Meelis Suurkask; Environmental Board, part of local community)
- peatland restoration projects (from forestry-drainage) done in Soomaa (Mr. Ants Animägi; State Forest Management Centre) introduced.
A very delicious traditional Estonian lunch (mulgipuder and kamavaht) was served by a local farmer.
During the second half of the workshop all participants discussed the barriers of sustainable land-use in the area, compromises of competing land-use possibilities for change and future visions. Generally, the soils in the Soomaa area are healthy, while soil decomposition, subsidence and loss of organic mater are the topics related with the peat soils drained for forestry.
It was discussed that the balance between the environmental-friendly but profitable land management (forestry or management of semi-natural communities) and nature protection should be achieved to support the continuity of local family farms and management of valuable semi-natural communities. Although large-scale activitieslike restoration of semi-natural communities and peatlands have been conducted in Soomaa, and two forest restoration areas are planned, the long-term monitoring, which is especially important for monitoring the changes in soil health is lacking. Also, it was discussed that the Soomaa area could be the living lab and lighthouse area for forestry on reweted peat soils.
The participants concluded that there will be an optimization and valuation exercise between the protection of peat soils (supported by higher water tables), and classical forest production and management (supported by lower water table), where paludiculture (management of reweted peat soils) and selection of suitable tree species for higher water table could partly provide an answer.
For the after-workshop exercise and additional discussions participants enjoyed the rainy Estonian spring weather and acquainted with different types of forested peat soils – spruce forest on drained peat soil, birch forests with ferns and wet swamp forests in the study trail (Beaver Trail). The results from this workshop will be available in the final reporting document of the soil needs assessment of the region.