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April 21, 2021

from the UK Ecological Center & Hydrology

According to a new study in Nature magazine, increasing water levels in agricultural bogs could make significant savings in global greenhouse gas emissions.

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Moors only take up three percent of the world’s land area, but store a similar amount of carbon as all terrestrial vegetation and support the unique biodiversity.

In their natural state, they can mitigate climate change by continuously Removing CO2 from the atmosphere and safely storing it in wet conditions for thousands of years.

However, many bog areas have been significantly altered by human activities, including drainage for land and forest plantations. As a result, around 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) are released into the atmosphere annually from drained bogs – this corresponds to three percent of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by human activities.

A team from Scientists, led by the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH), estimated the potential reduction in emissions from restoring all global agricultural peatlands. However, because large populations rely on these areas for a living, it may not be realistic to expect that all agricultural bogs will be fully rewetted and returned to their natural state in the near future.

The team therefore also analyzed the impact halving the current drainage depths in arable land and grassland on peat, which covers more than 250,000 km2 worldwide, and showed that this could still bring significant benefits for the containment of climate change. The study estimates that this could reduce emissions by around 500 million tons of CO2 per year, which is 1 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities.

A large proportion of global greenhouse gases from peatlands are generated in Europe and Southeast Asia, with the total land area of ​​many countries including the UK being a net source, not a sink, of greenhouse gases due to the emissions of degraded peat.

The study’s authors say the importance of bogs to the global climate system is increasingly recognized, with the Efforts to curb emissions by maintaining undehydrated bogs and rewetting drained sites are increasing.

UKCEH professor Chris Evans, who led the research, says: “Widespread bog deterioration needs to be addressed when Britain and others Countries want to achieve their goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 n to contribute to the Parisian climate Treaty objectives.

“Concerns about the economic and social consequences of rewetting agricultural bogs have prevented large-scale restoration, but our study shows that the development of locally appropriate mitigation measures is still growing could lead to a significant reduction in emissions. “

Professor Evans and his co-authors acknowledge the practical challenges, such as controlling water levels and storage, as well as growing crops suitable for the humid conditions of bogs, which are used as” Paludiculture “are known. Research on plants adapted to wetlands is ongoing, but does not yet offer any commercially viable large-scale alternatives to conventional agriculture.

However, the scientists point out that there is enough scope to partially rewet agricultural bogs without production seriously, as many sites are overwatered – sometimes up to over two meters – and often when there is no harvest.

In addition to the increased emissions, the drainage of bogs leads to subsidence and soil compaction, which has an impact on soil health and exposes low-lying areas to an increased risk of flooding. It also robs rare wetland adapted plants, insects and mammals of vital habitats.

Professor Sue Page of the University of Leicester, co-author of the study, says: “Our results are a challenge but also a great opportunity. A better one Water management in peat bogs offers a potential win-win situation – lower greenhouse gas emissions; improved soil health, extended agricultural life and reduced risk of flooding. “

Scientists say the potential reduction in greenhouse gases from halving the drainage depth in agricultural bogs is likely greater is estimated as they did not take into account changes in GHG nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions, which, like CO2 levels, are likely to be higher in deeply drained agricultural bogs.

The authors of the study in Nature took part UKCEH, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciencesc adhere to the University of Leeds, the James Hutton Institute, Bangor University, Durham University, Queen Mary University in London, the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, Rothamsted Research and Frankfurt University.

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