The term “ecosystem services” rocketed into the consciousness of modern environmental thinking in the first decade of the new millennia. To refer to it in the context of peatlands is more than appropriate – ecosystem services provided by the peatlands are some of the most intriguing services among the other terrestrial ecosystems of the Earth. For some time already it has been insufficient to consider peatlands merely as a source of peat for peat mining, nor as a source for forestry or agriculture. We have come to an understanding of the importance of all the ecosystem services that peatland provides, especially in their natural condition. Understanding these ecosystem services and their relation to our everyday life helps us in the appreciation and justification of the need for protection of natural resources and responsible ecosystem management. IPS has a significant role in this regard by endorsing the implementation of Wise Use and Responsible Peatland Management concepts. We have to admit that such questions and concerns have dominated past peat congresses, where the focus has been on environmental matters, conservation, restoration, etc. However, we still have to consider crosswise interests between the inevitable need for natural resources and economical usage of peatlands and protecting them for environmental reasons. An open and broad range discussion gives us unique chance to create an equally understandable human community, valuing different aspects of ecosystems services at their most extensive range provided by peatlands now and hopefully also in the future. We invite different interest groups to communicate with each other for the generation of synergy and fresh, innovative ideas in the field of ecosystems services provided by peatlands.
For the first time, poster sessions will be presented on digital screens, allowing presenters to show more than one slide simultaneously and add multimedia features (enabling the display of pictures, audio, video clips and/or comments, even in the absence of the presenter).
“Meet the expert” sessions are previously prepared master classes where specialists in the given fields share their practical experience on the topic. Examples might include the organization of cutover peatland restoration, methodology of technical procedures in scientific research, or the circumstances in which a given water treatment method might be better or cheaper than another, and so on. During such informal meetings, dialogue and discussion enable the sharing of information and knowledge, a feature lacking in traditional scientific presentations.
Congress organizers will prepare popular science lectures on pre-planned topics of various general aspects of peat and peatlands, which should prove interesting for wider audiences. Open lectures will be advertised in universities and to potentially interested NGO-s. Participation in such lectures will be free of charge for everyone.
In parallel with the peat congress, an international peat and peatlands related movie festival will be held. The festival would be open to the general public. For congress delegates the festival would either be free or at a minimal charge, while attendance for the general public would require normal cinema tickets. At later dates the same movie program will be presented in other towns, including outside of Estonia.
Prior to the peat congress, an international peat and peatland related photo contest will be held. The best pictures will be presented during the congress and winners will be announced. Based on the results of the contest, a photo exhibition will be organized and circulated to different galleries after the congress, including outside of Estonia.
The 2020 peat congress organizers in Estonia will pay special attention to developing interesting programs with the intention of attracting visitors from many countries, including those who thus far have not been actively involved in IPS activities (to be achieved via a special advertising campaign). Furthermore, special attention will be paid to bringing peat and peatland topics to the attention of the residents of Tallinn and Estonia through open lectures, movie and photo programs, and wide ranging coverage in the media, and on billboards.
A concerted effort will be made to ensure modern and efficient communication. To this end, a practical webpage and smart phone application will be created for IPC 2020. The application will help to keep everybody up to date with all important information and unforeseen changes to the schedule. Participants will be able to create personal schedules and set up reminders for events, send questions and comments to moderators, and have access to a thorough map with accommodations, transportation information, and a “meet-a-colleague” feature. This application will help delegates easily find all necessary information about IPC 2020.
There is potentially no better scene for the discussion of peatland ecological services than Estonia. Due to the suitable landscape and climatic conditions for paludification, approx. 22 % of Estonian territory is covered with peatlands in various conditions. Peatlands are an integral part of the Estonian landscape and have governed the course of old roads and communication between different regions. Manual peat extraction for domestic heating began several centuries ago, whereas industrial peat extraction had already begun by 1861. Due to the large importance of peatlands, Estonia has a long history of mire science as well. The special course of mire science, called „telmatology”, was first given at the University of Tartu in 1879. Eight Sphagnum species of a known 38 were first described here by the local bryologists. Since 1910, a mire research station has been in operating in Tooma with the aim of studying mires and their potential for exploitation in forestry and agriculture. Most notably between 1950 and 1970, vast mire areas were drained for forestry and agriculture. Soon thereafter, the importance of peatlands and their associated ecological services became well recognized, leading to the protection of nearly all bigger mires. At present, mires in their natural state cover approx. 5,5 % of the Estonian territory. This makes for a unique situation in Estonia – where the peatlands in their natural state, sustainable peat extraction and subsequent restoration, and alternative means of utilization are in harmony, offering excellent opportunities to study all various aspects of peatland management.