Fran-cisco Rilla, Director of Science and Policy at the Convention Secretariat, noted that peat-lands had played a role in the Ramsar context right from the start. Rilla stressed the im-portance of maintaining the coherence of the ecosystems that the peatlands formed. Draining them also led to the loss of fertile soils.

Intensive agriculture a threat

Hans Joosten, who heads the Department of Peatland Studies and Palaeoecology at Greifswald University/Germany, pointed to the risk of land subsidence through draining of peatlands. Areas existed in his native Netherlands that had sunken by up to eight me-tres through draining of wetlands. In turn, subsidence could create the danger of land being flooded with seawater and subsequent salinification of soil.

“Rewetting could solve most of the problems peatlands are facing,” Joosten said in Bonn. “But intensive agriculture remains the chief threat.” Paludiculture – the sustainable man-agement of peatlands through wet agriculture – was a viable alternative.