These four bog pillars provide an impressive insight into how the fen has developed from 1777 to the present day. But let’s start with a little trip back to the last Ice Age.
Before it was drained and settled in the late 18th century, the Donaumoos was the largest tract of fenland in the South of Germany. It was created after the end of the last Ice Age – some ten thousand years ago. Living bogs grow by about a millimetre a year due to the accumulation of peat. Just over two centuries ago, the peat was up to 10 meters, that's around 33 feet thick in some areas.
The Donaumoos was first settled in around 1790. During the same period, there was an effort to drain it, so the land could be used for farming.
… which was a problem, because the peat layer needs water, otherwise it disintegrates in contact with the air.
Since then, the peat layer has shrunk by between one and two centimetres every year, and between three and four metres over the entire period. That’s between point 4 and point 8 of an inch annually, or ten to 13 feet in total. The disintegrating peat layer releases all its stored CO2 into the atmosphere. In the Donaumoos, that’s 415,000 tons of CO2 a year – as much as the output of a n average small town. We’re talking about a real climate killer here.
To slow down the loss of peat, a landscape development concept was launched in 1992 and remains in operation. It attempts to preserve the huge layer of peat by regulating the water supply and thus secure the future survival of the Donaumoos as a place where human beings and animals can coexist.
Surviving in the fenland was a major challenge for the early settlers. You can find out more at the following stops.