REstoration and prognosis of PEAT formation in fens - linking diversity in plant functional traits to soil biological and biogeochemical processes


Belowground biodiversity is formed by fungi, bacteria, archaea, animals and plants that altogether affect soil functioning, particularly by controlling rates of production and decomposition of organic matter. Peat soils, being the most concentrated stores of soil carbon, are formed by a long-term net exceedance of production over decomposition. In Europe most peatlands, especially fens, are severely degraded. Little is known about drivers and pathways that determine whether peat formation and related ecosystem services and biodiversity are truly reinstated after rewetting. Previous research has focused on rainwater-fed bogs with upward growing peatmoss. In groundwater-fed fens, the prevailing peatland type in most European countries, roots of sedges grow into the older peat to form displacement peat.

Project goals & content

REPEAT aims to clarify the mechanisms of peat formation in fens by linking biogeochemical processes to soil community structure and biodiversity, as well as to plant belowground traits. Restoration and paludiculture (=biomass harvest in wet peatlands), providing vital ecosystem services for mitigation of climate change, regional hydrology, nutrient retention and biodiversity, receive special attention. The main research question is: How do environmental factors and human management interact with soil biodiversity in determining rates of peat accumulation in undrained and rewetted fens?

REPEAT is the first project to systematically address fen peat formation using an interdisciplinary, multi-method and multi-site approach across Europe. It focuses on both the least disturbed and the most disturbed fens and investigates the restorability of the latter ones. The main field study analyses ecosystem processes along a climate gradient through five countries (UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland) in triplets of undrained, drained and rewetted fens. In two countries (Poland and Romania), similar studies are carried out along transects reflecting gradients in nutrient conditions. The third field study looks at differences in these processes at pairs of long-term mown and unmown plots. The in-situ studies are supplemented by ex-situ mesocosm and laboratory experiments. REPEAT closely cooperates with the WETSCAPES project, addressing fen peat formation in Northeastern Germany.

Guidance on biodiversity-driven mechanisms of carbon sequestration and ecosystem resilience is urgently needed. Stakeholders in participating countries will be addressed through workshops, side events, and field days. Endusers at the EU, national, and regional level will be approached. A key stakeholder (Wetlands International) is involved as a subcontractor. REPEAT will advance the knowledge base for process-oriented restoration of fens and aims to impact the application of related policy. The project consolidates the peatland ecology expertise of five institutions covering the most important European fen regions to obtain the best state-of-the-art knowledge on fen peat formation processes.


Team members
The interdisciplinary research approach involves partners from Poland, Germany, Belgium, Norway and Romania. more...

Work packages
The project is organised in eight work packages. more...

Study area
REPEAT works in five European countries with substantial peatland cover: Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Romania. more...

Field campaigns

Publications with the results of the project. more...