Hans von Sonntag | 08.10. 2022

Open peat, the residue of extensive peat-cutting, Esterweger Dose, Lower Saxony, Germany; photography Hans von Sonntag

Last Sunday, I stood on the open peat soil of a massive peat-cutting area, the Esterweger Dose, in Lower Saxony, Germany, while working on the next iteration of Eurosite’s #PeatlandMatters campaign jointly with the Global Peatlands Initiative and the Greifswald Mire Centre.

This area looks like a black, monstrous moonscape devoid of life. It’s a remarkable testament to how our relationship with nature got lost amidst all the achievements in the last 200 years. Today, an open, dry peatland is anathema to climate protection because it releases uncountable tons of carbon into the atmosphere. What’s more, such areas are deserts that don’t give migratory birds the essential habitat needed for their long travel to the south.

Group of common cranes flock in Natural Park of Marshes of Arpudán, Spain; photography Pablo Escudor Canon, Getty Images

A week before, I saw hundreds of cranes passing by in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, convening at a safe distance on open grasslands. These majestic birds are currently congregating in huge flocks in North-East Germany before they begin their travel across Europe to their wintering grounds in France, Spain and Portugal. Cranes need wetlands that offer protection from ground predators as breeding habitats, and thankfully, due to peatland restoration efforts, they increasingly find them again.

On 8 October, we have World Migratory Bird Day. This year’s theme is light pollution, an often overlooked issue that is not only for migratory birds a huge problem but also for insects.