Why are marshlands important?
Marshlands play a key role in local and regional climate processes. They provide critical habitat to a variety of plants and animals and represent an essential component for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.
Most of the world’s soil carbon, which includes greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide are held in them and as the soil in marshes is unsurprisingly wet, it acts as a sediment trap, which means that greenhouse gases are decomposed very slowly and only released into the atmosphere a little at a time. They act in effect as both carbon sinks and sources, depending on how they are treated.
By their nature, these areas are extremely sensitive to external forces. If they dry out or are aggressively disturbed, the sediment trapping greenhouse gases can be lost, and the decomposition period speeds up drastically, producing and releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases directly into the atmosphere.
The site of our N01 campus in Kristiansand sits in an area of shallow valleys and hills, with several natural marshlands.
At N01 we were not aware of the impact when zoning of land in 2016, and during the due diligence process for expansion, it became apparent that the new facilities would need to expand over these areas, therefore, to minimise the environmental impact from our new assets, moving the marshlands to a new location was deemed both necessary and desirable.
How we did it
Moving, but also reestablishing marshland, that had been ditched in the 1960s, sustainably is far from easy. It is essential during the process to limit disturbance to the lower levels of sediment soil and to re-establish in advance the prerequisite conditions for it to function at its new location.
This required collaboration with environmental consultants, ecologists and contractors to find a suitable solution.
At the start of the project, the team catalogued the various elements of the land, from depth to layering and it became apparent that the marshland could in effect be split into two tiers: The top tier which contains active vegetation, and the lower, sediment tier.
The latter had high contents of partly decomposed organic materials which needed to be protected from exposure to oxygen to prevent the release of greenhouse gasses. These lower-tier sediments also have very low pH levels, a consideration the team had to be mindful of during the process.
Following extensive testing, it was possible to remove the top tier in small pieces and leave these temporarily, allowing the opportunity to move the lower tier sediments to the new site, where both tiers were reconstituted.
The excavated site for re-establishing the new marsh covered an area of over 24000m2 and 8 meters in depth, and through using a combination of bentonite cloth (organic material with fragments of clay), crushed sand, and stone, the foundations were placed for the marsh to establish and ultimately flourish.
Commitment to tackle climate change
As with any first-time project, there were some unforeseen challenges. This included the team having to overcome detangling vegetation after storage and coping with the Norwegian weather.
But as the saying in Norway goes: “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær!” “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes!”
The lessons learned from N01 are invaluable and useful. However, going forward our future due diligence processes will avoid disturbing marshlands with further expansions or establishments of data centers.
At Bulk Data Centers we are committed to ensuring our expansion and growth plans cause minimal impact on the environment, which in conjunction with building some of the most sustainable data centers in the world, shows our commitment to tackling climate change, at both a local and global level.
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