Thursday, November 4, 2010

German wetlands yielding to agriculture

Kim Bode, Katharina Fuhrin and Christian Schwägerl in Der Spiegel: Even as Berlin demands that developing countries preserve their rainforests, the country is doing little for biodiversity back home. Bogs and marshland in Germany are increasingly yielding to corn farming -- resulting in the release of huge quantities of CO2.

It's hard to tell just by looking at Rhinluch, a region northwest of Berlin, that an ecological drama is playing out here. Lush green vegetation stretches out toward the horizon and cranes glide across the sky. The countryside around the small river Rhin seems like an idyllic rural landscape.

But Andreas Piela, a nature conservation expert for the Environment Ministry in the state of Brandenburg, doesn't look happy. "We're destroying this ecosystem," he says, as serious as if he were gazing into the deep hole of an open pit coal mine

…Meanwhile, the German government is lecturing the rest of the world on preserving ecosystems. Last Tuesday, during the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen called on countries in tropical regions to preserve their rainforests, since clearing these forests releases enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and wipes out species. Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to the world to take action, even if this would have a "deep impact on our way of life and our economy." The UN Climate Change Conference starting at the end of November in Cancún, Mexico, will set the stage for similar appeals. The question is how much credibility Germany has on the global stage when its own bogs are disappearing.

...Marshlands once covered huge areas of the country, but they are disappearing on a large scale. "Bogs, unfortunately, are often unprotected and subject to intensive use," criticizes Beate Jessel, president of the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. A warning cry is sounding especially in the states of Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria….

Tidal freshwater in Germany

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