Land Use, Land-use Change and Forestry covers the following categories; Forest land, Cropland, Grassland, Wetlands, Settlements, Other land and Harvested Wood products.
This sector is a net source of carbon in all years. This result is determined largely by the CO2 emissions from Grassland and Wetlands, due to drainage of organic soils, offset somewhat by Forest Land, which acts as a major carbon sink. Harvested Wood Products are a sink of carbon for all years. The complex dynamics of land-use changes between categories and the relative contributions from biomass and soils lead to fluctuating estimates of sectoral emissions and removals.
Land management has a key role in the response to climate change. Ireland has significant and healthy biosystems, including grassland, hedgerows and forests, which sequester or absorb carbon dioxide (CO2). Mineral soils and peat make up a large portion of Ireland’s land areas and have high carbon content.
In line with international reporting guidelines, Ireland estimates emissions and removals associated with the following land uses: Forest land, Cropland, Grassland, Wetlands, Settlements and Other land. Forest land currently plays a significant role as a carbon sink. Since 1990, Ireland’s forest area has expanded by approximately 290,000 ha. As these forests grow and mature, they represent an important CO2 sink and long-term carbon store in biomass and soil. However, low forest planting rates in recent years are a future risk in the terms of our national forest estate continuing to act as a significant carbon sink.
Agricultural land management practices can lead to both emissions and removals of GHGs associated both with biomass and soils. Based on best available data, the net impact of land management in agriculture is dominated by a very significant emission of carbon dioxide due to the drainage of organic soils. Although the total area involved is relatively small, at approximately 330,000 ha (8% of the grassland area), the impact is large.
The management of peatlands is a particular concern with respect to potential for loss of carbon. Peat extraction and change of use of drained peatland to grassland or forestry leads to high rates of carbon loss. In general, land management should aim to preserve or enhance areas that have active carbon uptake in soils and biomass, and reduce or eliminate areas that are a source of carbon emissions. Such altered practices also yield benefits for ecosystem services and biodiversity.