Bjørn Kløve

Research Professor

(+358) 40 594 45 14
bjorn.klove@nibio.no

Place
Ås F20

Visiting address
Fredrik A. Dahls vei 20, 1430 Ås

To document

Abstract

Management of peat soils is regionally important as they cover large land areas and have important but conflicting ecosystems services. A recent management trend for drained peatlands is the control of greenhouse gases (GHG) by changes in agricultural practices, peatland restoration or paludiculture. Due to complex antagonistic controls of moisture, water table management can be difficult to use as a method for controlling GHG emissions. Past studies show that there is no obvious relationship between GHG emission rates and crop type, tillage intensity or fertilization rates. For drained peat soils, the best use options can vary from rewetting with reduced emission to efficient short term use to maximize the profit per amount of greenhouse gas emitted. The GHG accounting should consider the entire life cycle of the peatland and the socio-economic benefits peatlands provide locally. Cultivating energy crops is a viable option especially for wet peat soils with poor drainage, but harvesting remains a challenge due to tractability of wet soils. Paludiculture in lowland floodplains can be a tool to mitigate regional flooding allowing water to be stored on these lands without much harm to crops. This can also increase regional biodiversity providing important habitats for birds and moisture tolerant plant species. However, on many peatlands rewetting is not possible due to their position in the landscape and the associated difficulty to maintain a high stable water table. While the goal of rewetting often is to encourage the return of peat forming plants and the ecosystem services they provide such as carbon sequestration, it is not well known if these plants will grow on peat soils that have been altered by the process of drainage and management. Therefore, it is important to consider peat quality and hydrology when choosing management options. Mapping of sites is recommended as a management tool to guide actions. The environmental status and socio-economic importance of the sites should be assessed both for continued cultivation but also for other ecosystem services such as restoration and hydrological functions (flood control). Farmers need advice, tools and training to find the best after-use option. Biofuels might provide a cost-efficient after use option for some sites. Peat extraction followed by rewetting might provide a sustainable option as rewetting is often easier if the peat is removed, starting the peat accumulation from scratch. Also this provides a way to finance the after-use. As impacts of land use are uncertain, new policies should consider multiple benefits and decisions should be based on scientific evidence and field scale observations. The need to further understand the key processes and long term effects of field scale land use manipulations is evident. The recommended actions for peatlands should be based on local condition and socio-economic needs to outline intermediate and long term plans.

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Abstract

Peatland drainage results in several environmental impacts such as release of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere and leaching of nutrients to watercourses. These hazardous environmental effects can partly be controlled with soil management, and different drainage and remediation practices. Grading is a new method developed for soils with low conductivity suffering from poor drainage, water logging and ice. The soil surface is graded towards the ditch to increase surface runoff and drainage. The present study compares environmental effects of peatland grading compared to traditional intense pipe drainage. Detailed measurements of hydrology, climate, leaching and gas emissions were carried out at adjacent drainage areas with grass cultivation. Additional measurements were made at plots that were abandoned, cultivated with perennial crops, and remained as pristine peatlands. The results show that the leaching of nutrients is highest from pipe drainage. Climate gas emission was considerably higher at all managed sites than from the reference pristine site. Drainage, soil hydrology and soil nutrient status seemed to control gas emissions. The gas emissions were higher than assumed for Norwegian cold conditions. The results confirm observations made on peat soils in other climatic regions. The highest emissions of CO2 was observed when the soil temperature was high and groundwater table low. The N2O emission showed a large variation with no clear pattern. However, at some locations it peaked after a dry period when NO3-N was leached. More CH4 was emitted from the intensively drained site than the graded site, but more CO2 was emitted from the graded site. The difference in leaching and emission properties is partly due to differences in near surface hydrology. At grade sites, a faster runoff response to rainfall occur probably due to shallow throughfall or overland flow which provides better drainage. Also, the graded site was prepared recently, and this can have exposed fresh peat for decay. Therefore the drainage history must be well known in peatland studies as peat change in time due to drainage and cultivation. Abandoned peat field continue to leach greenhouse gases in a same way as cultivated sites.