Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 1989–2009 | Cite as

Sphagnum farming: the promised land for peat bog species?

  • Christoph MusterEmail author
  • Greta Gaudig
  • Matthias Krebs
  • Hans Joosten
Original Paper


Sphagnum farming is a promising approach towards sustainability in growing media production for horticulture. In this study we focus on the additional value of Sphagnum farming sites as a surrogate habitat for threatened peat bog fauna. The highly diverse arthropod groups of spiders and harvestmen were used as bioindicators to track changes in species assemblages over the first 3 years of Sphagnum farming on a site in northwestern Germany. The results were compared with simultaneously studied reference habitats of nearby bog grasslands and degraded peat bog remnants. Spider communities changed rapidly from assemblages dominated by disturbance specialists (pioneer species) in the year of artificial Sphagnum establishment to diverse assemblages with large proportions of peatland generalists in the following years. Conservation value based on rarity, Red List status, disturbance tolerance and peatland association of individual species was in the later stage of Sphagnum farming as high as in the seminatural reference sites. Species quality index as derived from rarity scores was particularly high in the first year of succession due to the occurrence of some rare disturbance specialists. Despite the fact that each succession stage has its own conservation value, we advocate long rotation cycles in Sphagnum farming to allow establishment of slowly colonizing peatland specialists. We generally recommend the establishment of Sphagnum farms on degraded peatland, as creation of this artificial habitat promotes landscape and species diversity and provides refuges for endangered species of peatland and ephemeral habitats.


Araneae Bioindication Mire conservation Paludiculture Spider community succession Surrogate habitat 



The research project “Sphagnum farming on former bog grassland” had been facilitated by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Torfwerk Moorkultur Ramsloh Werner Koch GmbH & Co. KG and the Deutsche Torfgesellschaft mbH, whose financial and in-kind support is gratefully acknowledged. We thank our project partners for the fruitful co-operation and all helpers for collecting the “spider samples”. We are grateful to Ingmar Weiss for confirming the determination of Robertus heydemanni. The constructive comments of two anonymous referees helped to improve an earlier version of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10531_2015_922_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (82 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 82 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Muster
    • 1
    Email author
  • Greta Gaudig
    • 2
  • Matthias Krebs
    • 2
  • Hans Joosten
    • 2
  1. 1.Zoological Institute and MuseumUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Botany and Landscape Ecology, Partner in the Greifswald Mire CentreUniversity of GreifswaldGreifswaldGermany

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