open access publication

Preprint, 2023

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

In: EGUsphere, Volume 2023, Pages 1-28, 10.5194/bg-2023-23

Contributors (8)

Koch, Julian (0000-0002-7732-3436) [1] Elsgaard, Lars (0000-0003-0058-7609) [2] Greve, Mogens Humlekrog (0000-0001-9099-8940) [2] Gyldenkærne, Steen [2] Hermansen, Cecilie (0000-0002-1925-3732) [2] Levin, Gregor [2] Wu, Shubiao [2] Stisen, Simon (0000-0001-6695-8412) [1]


  1. [1] Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
  2. [NORA names: GEUS Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland; Governmental Institutions; Denmark; Europe, EU; Nordic; OECD]
  3. [2] Aarhus University
  4. [NORA names: AU Aarhus University; University; Denmark; Europe, EU; Nordic; OECD]


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.


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