Research 227: GHG Fluxes from Terrestrial Ecosystems in Ireland

Authors: Gerard Kiely, Paul Leahy, Ciaran Lewis, Matteo Sottocornola, Anna Laine and Ann-Kristin Koehler

Summary: Irish grazed grasslands are a sink for carbon dioxide and a source for methane and nitrous oxide. Irish forests and pristine peatlands are sinks for carbon; however degraded peatlands are sources for carbon.

Published: 2018

ISBN: 978-1-84095-742-6

Pages: 62

Filesize: 2,944KB

Format: pdf

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Identifying Pressures

Irish grazed grasslands are a sink for carbon dioxide and a source for methane and nitrous oxide. Irish forests and pristine peatlands are sinks for carbon; however degraded peatlands are sources for carbon.  The pressures on these ecosystems include:

  • increasing the animal herd on grasslands which increases land-atmosphere fluxes of methane and nitrous oxide,
  • lack of adequate investment incentives to increase hardwood forestry,
  • Irish peatlands are under pressure from a lack of a long-term sustainable carbon policy for the preservation of pristine peatlands and management of degraded peatlands.

Informing Policy

This research was based on research projects funded by the EPA since 2002. Regarding soil carbon sequestration, future policy initiatives to increase soil carbon sequestration should target grassland soils. These have the greatest potential to sequester carbon. Pristine peatlands in Ireland should be conserved as sinks for carbon while degraded peatlands need to be examined further to identify possible restoration and sustainable management strategies for greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stock maintenance. Forest cover in Ireland has not achieved its targets for land cover and policy measures are needed to incentivise its increase on mineral soils, thereby enhancing the carbon stock in Ireland.

Developing Solutions

Land management strategies need to be identified to enable soil carbon sequestration. For Ireland to benefit from IPCC greenhouse gas accounting methods, a national research effort is required to produce evidence-based Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of carbon sequestration in Irish soils.  For peatlands, strong conservation measures are required for the remaining pristine peatlands. This will enable this land cover to remain as a sink for carbon into the future although it is expected that this sink may reduce under climate change. Cut-away and degraded peatlands need to be examined further to determine the optimum sustainable management of such lands to limit their carbon losses. Possible management strategies include allowing the water table to be raised for natural colonisation with tree species such as downy birch.