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WWF-Russia expressed concern regarding possible peat bog development in Kamchatka
03 september 2019
The environmentalists are sure that a peat bog development within close proximity to the salmon spawning rivers may result in an unpredictable negative impact on the salmon ecosystems in the western part of the peninsula.
The Mitoginskoe peat bog is located in the West Kamchatka, near the Cape of Levashov, in seven kilometers to the North from the town of Ust-Bolsheretsk. The peat bog covers the area of 500 sq. km. The thickness of the peat deposit is from 2 to 7 meters. An approximate total volume of stocks is 245 million metric tons.
The first suggestions to develop this peat bog appeared in the 1940's. Nowadays, the project of Mitoginskoe peat bog development is presented to Chinese investors. Peat can be used as organic fertilizer, fuel, sorbent agent, insulant for walls, etc.
In its natural condition, peat can hold up amount of water equal up to 96% of its mass. Thus, the first step of peat bog development involves dehydration, channeling, and groundwater discharge.
"Common ways of peat bog development which involve dehydration become less and less popular nowadays because in this case the whole bog ecosystem is ruined. Peat bogs cover only 3% of our planet, yet these areas hold 500 Gt of carbon. While a peat bog is dehydrated, the carbon emission increases greatly, as well as the methane emission from drain channels. These gases are the main cause of the greenhouse effect and global climate change. The loss of ecosystem services, plant and animal habitats should be also considered as negative factors alongside the greenhouse gases emission," said Irina Kamennova, the project coordinator with Wetlands International's Russian Program.
The water from the Mitoginskoe peat bog will be drained into the Amchigacha River which is closely connected in its downstream to the Bolshaya River. These two large rivers are spawning grounds for coho and pink salmon. Any changes in the hydrological regime and water chemistry can influence homing - the salmon's instinct to return for spawning to the same rivers where they were once born which is base on the ability to percept the water chemical constitution.
The Mitoginskoe peat bog development will require the construction of roads, infrastructure, electricity networks, as well as the installation of observation towers: given the flammability of peat, it requires constant monitoring. The milling technology of peat extraction used today leaves behind smooth fields separated by a system of drainage channels. The process of natural restoration in such areas is catastrophically slow and takes many decades if not thousands of years.
“Wetlands provide a wide range of ecosystem services. Among them are regulation of surface and underground runoff, water purification, and erosion control. The loss of swamps may require significant costs for the construction and maintenance of technical devices that replace these services. We do not evaluate the economic feasibility of the project. But from the nature conservation point of view and conservation of salmon stocks, the project requires a thorough comprehensive assessment, which would take into account the whole range of negative environmental consequences of the peat bog development, ”said Sergey Rafanov, the Director of the Kamchatka / Bering Sea Ecoregional Office of WWF-Russia .
Wetlands are among the most biologically diverse and productive ecosystems on the planet. Their condition is rapidly deteriorating. Between 1970 and 2015, 35% of wetlands disappeared worldwide; the process has escalated particularly since the 2000s. The loss of swamps is caused by climate change, population and cities growth. Most wetlands are affected by agricultural development. Contamination swamps are no less harmful: according to the UN, more than 80% of wastewater enters the wetlands around the world without proper treatment.
the picture in the preview © Kirill Shakhmatov
the picture in the head © Irina Kamennova