Life+ Nature project: Restoration of raised bog in Lille Vildmose

Foto Jan Skriver
Common cotton-grass has found its way back after peat cutting. Photo: Jan Skriver

Lille Vildmose is undoubtedly an outstanding natural environment. Here you find the largest active raised bog in the Northwest European lowlands. Furthermore, Lille Vildmose contains more than 50 % of the preserved area with raised bog in Denmark. However, decades of peat cutting and farming have left the central areas of the bog severely damaged.

To improve the situation in Lille Vildmose, the Aage V. Jensen Nature Foundation, the Municipality of Aalborg, and the Nature Agency Denmark will carry out an extensive restoration project in the raised bog. The project is supported by LIFE+ Nature, which is a financial instrument in the European Union. The project was launched in September 2011 and will continue until the 31st of December 2016. Read the project folder (UK)

A threatened habitat

Raised bogs are threatened habitats. After many years of reclamation, cultivation, and peat cutting, only a small percentage of the raised bogs in Denmark and the rest of Europe is preserved. Of the original 55 km2 of raised bog in Lille Vildmose, only 20 km2 of raised bog is preserved today.

Tidligere gravebaner i Lille Vildmose, foto Jens Vinge
The legacy after the peat cutting is still visible in the central areas of Lille Vildmose

Raised bog to be secured and restored

The objective of this LIFE+ project is to secure the preserved areas of raised bog habitat and also to create a basis for restoration of raised bog in some of the degraded areas.

Portlandmosen
In Portlandmosen, trees threaten the preserved raised bog vegetation

Central areas in Lille Vildmose back on track

In this LIFE+ project, the central areas in Lille Vildmose are in focus. In Danish, they are known as “Mellemområdet”. These areas have been subject to intensive reclamation projects with the objectives to create more farmland and to make use of the peat resources in the bog. An important objective of this LIFE+ project is to help the central areas in Lille Vildmose back on track. To do this, the project partners must create the basis needed for the area to regenerate as active raised bog over years.

Several interventions or so called “actions” will be carried out in this project in order to reach the project objectives. These include:

-        Restore Lake Birkesø as a shallow lake with a surface area of 130 ha.

-        Raise the water level on 770 ha.

-        Establish a stock of red deer living in the central areas of Lille Vildmose.

-        Cut down 200 ha. of tree growth in Portlandmosen and Paraplymosen

-        Reduce the numbers of racoon dog, American mink, and red fox.

-        Erect 2 new observation platforms and 8 new areas with information boards.

Large contribution from the EU LIFE+ Nature

More than 5.5 million Euros are invested to secure the raised bog in Lille Vildmose in the future. Together, the three partners contribute with 1.4 mio. Euros, equivalent to 25 % of the budget. The remaining 75 % of the budget (4.1 mio. Euros) is the contribution from the European Union’s financial instrument LIFE+ Nature. This large contribution from the European Union indicates that raised bog is a highly prioritized habitat type in the EU.

What is Natura 2000?

Natura 2000 logo Natura 2000 is an ecological network of protected areas within the European Union. The objective of the network is to maintain the diversity of plants, animals and habitats in Europe. Lille Vildmose is a Natura 2000 area.

Read more about Natura 2000 on the EU’s official Natura 2000 website .

What is LIFE+ Nature?

LIFE+ Nature is a financial instrument that supports projects aiming at the protection and restoration of Natura 2000 areas. LIFE+ has a strong focus on projects that develop new methods or best practices, as these experiences can be used in future projects.

Read more about LIFE on the official LIFE website. Press the LIFE logo in the upper right corner for a link.

Read more about other Danish LIFE-projects.

Actions

The LIFE+ project consists of several different actions. In this section you can find a description of each action in the project.

-        Introduction of red deer in Mellemområdet

-        Restoration of Lake Birkesø

-        Protection of the edges of Tofte Mose

-        Raising water levels

-        Clearance of trees

-        Regulation of raccoon dog, American mink, and fox

-        Experiments with spreading of sphagnum

-        Facilities for visitors

-        Information about the LIFE+ project

-        Monitoring of results

__________________________

Introduction of red deer in central Lille Vildmose

Kronvildt i Lille Vildmose, foto Jan Skriver
Red deer in Lille Vildmose. Photo Jan Skriver

Where: The central area in Lille Vildmose

Grazing red deer is a natural and gentle method to control the re-growth of trees. Red deer will eat the leaves of young birch and other trees. This will reduce the need to cut down trees manually. Red deer is already used as a means of nature management in Tofte and Høstemark with good results.

50 red deer will be placed in the area. They are moved from the fenced areas in Tofte and Høstemark. Over time, the population will increase. It is expected that a population of between 80-160 animals will be appropriate. Two factors are important when estimating the right size of the population:

-          The population should be big enough to be effective in suppressing birch and other trees by eating.

-          The population size should not be too big, as many animals can damage the sensitive raised bog vegetation.

To prevent the red deer from leaving the area, 22 km of new fence will be built. This will not change the accessibility of the area. Entry and exit of cars and visitors will remain unrestricted.

Prøve på hegn til Mellemområedt
This is approximately how the fence will look like. Demo-fence at Vildmosegaarden.

Restoration of Lake Birkesø

Where: Former Lake Birkesø, north of Lake Tofte Sø.

Lake Birkesø was reclaimed in 1761 as the first of four lakes in Lille Vildmose. Today, the lakes Lillesø and Toftesø have been restored, and the time has now come for the restoration of Lake Birkesø.

The restoration of Lake Birkesø will minimise the drainage from the northern edges of Tofte Mose. The shallow lake will also attract a rich bird life. Bird-watchers and other guests in Lille Vildmose will benefit from this. They will be able to use a new observation platform that will be erected.

The road to Lake Tofte Sø and the observation platform here will be flooded when Lake Birkesø is restored. Consequently, a new access road to Lake Tofte Sø will be established.

Lillesø
The restored Lake Lillesø

Protection of the edges of Tofte Mose

Kanten af Tofte Mose
The edge of Tofte Mose towards W is seriuosly treathened by drainage towards agricultural areas (right).

Where: The northeast and northwest edges of Tofte Mose

Tofte Mose is the largest active raised bog in Northwest European lowlands. Denmark has an international obligation to protect Tofte Mose.

Tofte Mose is surrounded by low-lying areas. Water from the bog is seeping to these areas, which causes the bog to dry out. This is very damaging to a raised bog. Between the bog and the low-lying areas, there are steep slopes. There is a risk that the steep edges could collapse in a so-called peat slide. This would also severely damage Tofte Mose. To prevent seepage and peat slide, two dikes are established along the edges of the bog.

Raising water levels

Høstemark fenner og mose
Areal photo of the northern part of "Mellemområdet", where in some parts raised water level were established in 2009.

Where: Smidiefenner, Purkerfenner and southern Moufenner, Paraplymosen and Høstemark Mose.

As part of the LIFE+ project, the water level will be raised on 770 ha. in the central areas of Lille Vildmose.

The areas previously used for peat cutting and grazing are severely disturbed. Not much of the natural vegetation is left in these areas. A higher water table will improve the living conditions for sphagnum. Re-growth of sphagnum is a very important step towards the restoration of raised bog. An extensive sphagnum cover will help to make the bog more acidic, less nutrient rich, and wetter.

A higher water table will also improve the conditions in the areas with preserved raised bog in Paraplymosen and Høstemark. Fewer trees will be able to grow, and the conditions for the natural vegetation in raised bogs will generally improve.

Spunsning i Portlandmosen
To raise the water level, ditches and channels are sealed with dams and dikes. Some will be reinforced with membranes.

Clearance of trees

Where: Portlandmosen and Paraplymosen

Tree growth causes the bog to dry out, because it increases the evaporation from the bog. To protect the preserved areas with raised bog it is necessary to cut down trees. Trees have been cut down in Portlandmosen in a previous restoration project, but they have been able to re-establish themselves in the area. This time, the cutting will be repeated after a period of time to prevent such re-growth.

Genvækst af fældede birk
Clearance of birch trees is often followed by a lot of re-growth.

This action should be seen in relation to the introduction of red deer in the central areas in Lille Vildmose. Grazing red deer will help to prevent the growing of trees.


Birch is cut down in Portlandmosen to protect the raised bog vegetation

Regulation of Raccoon dog, American mink, and fox

Mårhund med GPS-sender
Raccoon dog with GPS-tracker is popularly known as a "Judas animal".

Where: Lille Vildmose

The birds nesting on the ground in Lille Vildmose are threatened by large populations of American mink, raccoon dog, and fox. It is necessary to control the numbers of these animals to protect the rich bird life in Lille Vildmose. Raccoon dog and American mink are both invasive species. They are unwanted in Danish natural habitats. The number of these two animals will be reduced as much as possible. The objective is to eradicate them from the area. The fox is naturally occurring in Denmark. The population of fox will be reduced to a level where it does not pose a threat to the birds.

The animals will be caught alive in traps. Fox and mink will be shot. Raccoon dog will be transferred to another LIFE project, “mårhundeprojektet”. In this project, a raccoon dog that is caught is neutered and then released with a GPS-tracker around its neck (a Judas animal). In this way, the Judas animal can help track down other raccoon dogs.

Read more about the Scandinavian LIFE-project about raccoon dogs (in Swedish and English)

Experiments with spreading of sphagnum

Where: Moufenner

Sphagnum is the foundation of a raised bog. To improve the situation in areas formerly used for peat cutting or pasture, sphagnum growth is very important. Sphagnum will absorb water, and then the area will get wetter. Sphagnum will also make the area more acidic. This will improve the conditions for vegetation naturally occurring in a raised bog. It will also make it harder for plants that are not adapted to this environment to survive. Thus, growth of sphagnum is a first step towards getting back the naturally occurring vegetation.

Levende sphagnum mos
Sphagnum is the foundation of a raised bog

The preserved areas of raised bog in Lille Vildmose are fragmented. Consequently, it will take a long time for sphagnum to immigrate on its own. If sphagnum spreads faster, it can speed up the process of raised bog restoration.

In a demonstration project, sphagnum is spread in areas formerly used for peat cutting. The objective is to investigate whether this can speed up the restoration of severely damaged raised bog. This has been tested in Lille Vildmose before, but only in a small-scale project. In this project, the testing will be conducted in larger scale. The test is expected to be conducted in two areas, each covering approximately 10 ha.

Before sphagnum is spread, the top soil is removed. It is too rich in nutrients. Fresh sphagnum is harvested from another raised bog. It is then cut in small pieces and spread on top of the dark peat soil.

Sphagnum til udspredning Udspredt sphagnum på nøgen tørveflade

Sphagnum has recently been spread out on an area in Mou-fenner

Facilities for visitors

Golden Eagle in Lille Vildmose. Photo: Henrik Søndergård Fugletårnet ved Høstemark Mose
Visitors interested in birds will benefit from the LIFE+ project

Where:  Several different sites in the project area

As part of this LIFE+ project, new facilities for visitors in Lille Vildmose will be established. This will allow more people to experience this outstanding natural environment.

A raised bog is not as easily accessible as for example a forest. The high water content in the bog prevents people from walking around in the raised bog as they could sink in and get wet. More importantly, it would damage the vegetation in the raised bog. Hence, it is necessary to establish facilities that allow people to experience the raised bog without damaging it and without getting wet. Such facilities can include towers, platforms, and boardwalks.

New facilities for visitors that will be established as part of this LIFE+ project include:

-          A new platform by the shore of Lake Birkesø.

-          A new tower in the same spot as the old fire tower on the road Nyhøstemarkvej.

-          A new footpath to the hill of Kællingbjerg. Parts of it will be made as boardwalk.

-          More benches and tables in the area.

Wiew platform in Portlandmosen

Information about the LIFE+ project

An in-depth information campaign during the project period is very important to the partners in this project. The relevant information will be available in many different ways. It is the intention that everyone interested shall be able to find the information they want.

A project folder will give an overview of the content in the project and the project’s background. More in-depth information can be found at the project’s website. Several reports will be made during the project. They will be available online. By the end of the project, a layman’s report will be published. This report will account for the results of the project in a way that will be easy to understand for people not involved in the project.

There will also be information available for visitors in Lille Vildmose. Information boards are placed around the area. The Lille Vildmose Center will also have information about the project. A number of guided walks will be held during the project period. Public guided walks will be announced on this website.

Høstemark Skov Photo: Peter A. Larsen
Guided walks let visitors experience the nature in Lille Vildmose and also receive information about the project.

The partners will invite everyone interested in the project to participate in public meetings. The first meeting was held in December 2011. Information about public meetings will be available on this website and in local newspapers.

First public meeting in Life project

If you have a question concerning the LIFE+ project, you are always welcome to contact the project manager and the project working group.

Peter Hahn (project manager), Nature Agency Denmark
Telephone: 72 54 30 00

Roar S. Poulsen , Municipality of Aalborg
Telephone: 99 31 31 31

Jacob P. Andersen , Aage V. Jensen Naturfond
Telephone: 98 58 73 82

Monitoring of results

As part of the LIFE+ project, the development in the area will be closely monitored. This allows the partners to follow the results from the project. Several different indicators are monitored. These include vegetation patterns, tree growth, water levels, bird populations, and the effect of grazing red deer.

The Danish Ornithological Society will conduct the monitoring of the bird populations.

Dansende traner i kanten af Vildmosen, foto: Johnny Laursen
Dancing cranes in Lille Vildmose. Photo: Johnny Laursen