WICKLOW / LONGFORD / CERVIA / ORISTANO / LOWER SAXONY – This investigation looked into how commercial interests backed by public money are decimating Europe’s remaining wetlands, as national authorities ignore this ongoing exploitation. 

Wetlands - such as lagoons, swamps, and peat bog - are a distinct ecosystem saturated by water and are vital CO2 emissions sponges, capable of locking up carbon for thousands of years. It is for this reason that, in 1971, the UN Ramsar Convention was signed by countries to conserve our wetlands. Yet, wetlands remain one of the most threatened ecosystems in Europe as countries actively encourage exploitation, supporting intensive agriculture, industrial extraction and mass tourism. The majority of wetlands in Europe - the bloc’s greatest carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots - are exploited beyond repair due to decades of industrial activity.

Our team of reporters are based in the EU countries with the greatest loss of wetlands: Ireland, which has lost 90% of its wetlands, Germany (80%), and Italy (75%).

In Ireland, the investigation exposed how two semi-state bodies that control 20% of Ireland’s peatlands continue to exploit them for commercial gain. We revealed the direct impact of poor climate policy: putting plantation forestry and wind farms on peatlands - highlighting resulting water quality impacts and continued draining of peats for speculative planning applications.

In Germany, we revealed how politicians circumvent urging climate issues by opposing the Nature Restoration Law. We showed in Germany how conservative political inaction and lobby work is not only postponing essential steps toward landscape restoration, but also leaving farmers with no answer to their questions about the social-economic consequences in the case of a large-scale rewetting of agricultural peatlands.

In Italy, our investigation combined scientific literature, satellite data, and field reporting to identify some of the most degraded or yet unknown Italian wetlands. We focused on Sardinia and Cervia as emblematic cases, demonstrating how a proper wetland protection is impossible without detailed scientific knowledge and an integrated management of these vital ecosystems.

Photo: Wetland in Oristano, Sardinia. The Gulf of Oristano boasts 7,700 hectares of Ramsar wetlands of international importance (over 60% of Sardinia's entire heritage). Credit: Giulia Bonelli

Team members

Guillaume Amouret

Guillaume Amouret is a French journalist based in Hamburg.

Guillaume Amouret

Giulia Bonelli

Giulia Bonelli is a freelance science journalist based in Rome.

Maria Delaney

Maria Delaney (Dublin) is the editor of Noteworthy, an investigative journalism platform.

Maria Delaney

Steven Fox

Steven Fox is a freelance journalist currently based in Cork, Ireland.

Steven Fox

Swantje Furtak

Swantje Furtak is a freelance journalist based in Munich.

Swantje Furtak ©Jana Stein

Benedetta Pagni

Benedetta Pagni is a science journalist and data analyst based in Trieste, Italy.

Elisabetta Tola

Elisabetta Tola is an Italian journalist and science communicator.

Elisabetta Tola

The Journal

The Journal is the largest native online news outlet in Ireland with 550,000+ average daily users, with a 50/50 gender split.

The Journal

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