02 Feb 2023
 | 02 Feb 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Water table driven greenhouse gas emission estimate guides peatland restoration at national scale

Julian Koch, Lars Elsgaard, Mogens H. Greve, Steen Gyldenkærne, Cecilie Hermansen, Gregor Levin, Shubiao Wu, and Simon Stisen

Abstract. The substantial climate change mitigation potential of restoring peatlands, through rewetting and extensifying agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is largely recognized. The green deal in Denmark aims at restoring 100,000 ha peatlands by 2030. This area corresponds to more than half of the Danish peatland, with an expected reduction of GHG emissions of almost half of the entire land use, land use change and forestry (LULUFC) emissions. Recent advances established the functional relationship between hydrological regimes, i.e. water table depth (WTD), and CO2 and CH4 emissions. This builds the basis for science-based tools to evaluate and prioritize peatland restoration projects. With this article, we lay the foundation of such a development by developing a high-resolution WTD map for Danish peatlands. Further we define WTD repose functions (CO2 and CH4) fitted to Danish flux data to derive a national GHG emission estimate for peat soils. We estimate the annual GHG emissions to be 2.6 Mt CO2-eq, which is around 15 % lower than previous estimates. Lastly, we investigate alternative restoration scenarios and identify substantial differences in the GHG reduction potential depending on the prioritization of fields in the rewetting strategy. If wet fields are prioritized, which is not unlikely in a context of a voluntary bottom-up approach, the GHG reduction potential is just 30 % for the first 10,000 ha with respect to a scenario that prioritizes drained fields. This underpins the importance of the proposed framework linking WTD and GHG emissions to guide a spatially differentiated peatland restoration.

Julian Koch et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2023-23', Anonymous Referee #1, 03 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on bg-2023-23', Anonymous Referee #2, 13 Mar 2023

Julian Koch et al.

Julian Koch et al.


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Short summary
Utilizing peatlands for agriculture leads to large emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide. The emissions are triggered by lowering the water table, which is a necessary step in order to make peatlands arable. Many countries aim at reducing their emissions by restoring peatlands, which can be achieved by stopping agricultural activities and thereby raising the water table. We estimate a total emission of 2.6 Mt CO2-eq for organic rich peatlands in Denmark and a potential reduction of 77 %.