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Modelling and measuring agricultural management on peat soils to enhance removals and sequestration of carbon


Ireland and New Zealand aim to halve national GHG emissions by 2030 and reach climate neutrality by 2050. For the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector grassland over drained organic soils is one of the largest emission sources in both countries. Ireland and New Zealand's current GHG inventories approximate 335k and 250k Ha, respectively of grassland on peat soils. This results in upper estimates of GHG emissions around 9 Mt CO2eq for Ireland and 5.4 Mt CO2eq for New Zealand.

These large and uncertain estimates are derived from the application of default IPCC tier 1 emission factors (EFs) to 335,000ha and 167,800ha of peat soils assumed as 100% deep drained grassland for agricultural use. The latest research in Ireland and NZ addresses some key uncertainties around the area of peat soil, drainage depth, nutrient status and lack of national specific EFs associated with these large estimates (Pronger et al., 2022, Aitova et al., 2023 and Tuohy et al., 2023). 

For policy makers to decide on appropriate carbon sequestration and GHG mitigation actions to implement at national levels, scenario projections of management changes and future climate impacts on these soils that better reflect the nuance of each country are urgently needed.

Project aims

This project aims to asses the use of a range of process-based models to simulate carbon dynamics (emissions and removals) in organic soils under agricultural use specific to Ireland and New Zealand conditions. The project’s modelling starting point will align with and be validated against ongoing GHG monitoring in both countries (NASCO and OzFlux). This work will improve understanding and support refinement of emissions estimates from grassland organic soils and progression towards Tier 3 reporting. 

Lead researcher

Teagasc lead researcher Giulia Bondi