Life Lille Vildmose

Restoration of raised bog in Lille Vildmose

Projecttype EU Life and Natura 2000
Period 2011-2016
Project period has been prolonged to June 30 2020
Status Ongoing
Partners EU Life, Aage V. Jensen Naturfond og Aalborg Kommune

 7.2 mio. euro. EU Life contributes with 4.1 mio. euro

 logoer til lille vildmose.jpg



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 have carried 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 continued until the 30st of June 2020. 

Read about the project in the Layman's report (UK)

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.

In Portlandmosen, trees threaten the preserved raised bog vegetation

Central areas in Lille Vildmose back on track

In the LIFE+ project, the central areas in Lille Vildmose have been 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 have created the basis needed for the area to regenerate as active raised bog over years.

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

  • Restoration of Lake Birkesø as a shallow lake with a surface area of 130 ha.
  • Raising the water level on 770 ha.
  • Establishing a stock of red deer living in the central areas of Lille Vildmose.
  • Cutting down 200 ha. of tree growth in Portlandmosen and Paraplymosen
  • Reducing the numbers of racoon dog, American mink, and red fox.
  • Erecting 2 new observation platforms and 8 new areas with information boards.


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 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.

in 2016 22 red deer have been placed in the area. They are moved from the fenced areas in Tofte and Høstemark. Over time, the population will increase. At the end of 2020 the population was estimated to between 80-160 animals, which is expected as an appropriate population size. 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, 30 km of new fence has been built. The fence will not change the accessibility of the area. Entry and exit of cars and visitors will remain unrestricted.

The new fence line

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

Lake Birkesø was reclaimed in 1761 as the first of four lakes in Lille Vildmose. The lake Toftesø was restored the 1970'es, 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 restoration of Lake Birkesø began in 2015 and in December 2017 the work was finished. The shallow lake immediately attracted a rich bird life - also for the benefit of bird-watchers and other guests in Lille Vildmose. A observation platform in the Northern end of the lake has been erected, so visitors can have a perfect view to the lake and the rich bird life. A path has been made, so it now is possible to go for a ealk all around the lake.

The ole gravel road to Lake Tofte Sø and the observation platform here was flooded when Lake Birkesø is restored. Consequently, a new access road to Lake Tofte Sø has been established.

Mineral soil from the old gravel road has been used to form three islands in the lake for ground-nesting birds.

The restored Lake Lillesø

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.

Immediately after establishing the dike, the water level began to rise on the bog side of the dike.

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 has been 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.

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. In the LIFE+ project, the cutting has been 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

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 has been reduced as much as possible. The objective was 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 has been caught alive in traps. Fox and mink has been shot. Raccoon dog has been 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)

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 has been 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 has been conducted in larger scale. The test has been conducted in two areas of in all 12 ha.

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

Spreading of sphagnum and straw

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 has been established. This allows 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 has been established as part of this LIFE+ project include:

-          A new pavillon by the shore of Lake Birkesø and a foot path around the lake.

-          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.

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 Danish project’s website. Several reports has been made during the project. They are available online. A layman’s report, made at the end of the project accounts for the results of the project in a way that will be easy to understand for people not involved in the project.

The Layman's report in English can be downloadet here

There are also 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 have been held during the project period and will continue as part of the offer for the visitors to the area. 

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

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 have conducted the monitoring of the bird populations.

You can find monitoring reports on the project website

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

Contribution from EU LIFE+ Nature

More than 7.2 million Euros have been invested to secure the raised bog in Lille Vildmose in the future. Together, the three partners have contributed with 3.1 mio. Euros. The remaining 4.1 of the budget 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.


If you have a question concerning the LIFE+ project, you are always welcome to contact the project partners.

Danish Nature Agency

Danish Nature Agency Himmerland
Telefon: + 45 72 54 39 00

Aalborg Municipality

Park & Natur
Telefon: +45 99 31 31 31

Aage V. Jensen Naturfond

Telefon: +45 33 13 21 45