Final report on project SP1210: Lowland peatland systems in England and Wales – evaluating greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon balances

Evans, Chris; Morrison, Ross; Burden, Annette; Williamson, Jenny; Baird, Andrew; Brown, Emma; Callaghan, Nathan; Chapman, Pippa; Cumming, Alex; Dean, Hannah; Dixon, Simon; Dooling, Gemma; Evans, Jonathan; Gauci, Vincent; Grayson, Richard; Haddaway, Neal; He, Yufeng; Heppell, Kate; Holden, Joseph; Hughes, Steve; Kaduk, Jörg; Jones, Davey; Matthews, Rachel; Menichino, Nina; Misselbrook, Tom; Page, Sue; Pan, Gong; Peacock, Michael; Rayment, Mark; Ridley, Luke; Robinson, Inma; Rylett, Dan; Scowen, Matthew; Stanley, Kieran and Worrall, Fred (2016). Final report on project SP1210: Lowland peatland systems in England and Wales – evaluating greenhouse gas fluxes and carbon balances. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.



Lowland peatlands represent one of the most carbon-rich ecosystems in the UK. As a result of widespread habitat modification and drainage to support agriculture and peat extraction, they have been converted from natural carbon sinks into major carbon sources, and are now amongst the largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the UK land-use sector. Despite this, they have previously received relatively little policy attention, and measures to reduce GHG emissions either through re-wetting and restoration or improved management of agricultural land remain at a relatively early stage. In part, this has stemmed from a lack of reliable measurements on the carbon and GHG balance of UK lowland peatlands. This project aimed to address this evidence gap via an unprecedented programme of consistent, multi year field measurements at a total of 15 lowland peatland sites in England and Wales, ranging from conservation managed ‘near-natural’ ecosystems to intensively managed agricultural and extraction sites. The use of standardised measurement and data analysis protocols allowed the magnitude of GHG emissions and removals by peatlands to be quantified across this heterogeneous data set, and for controlling factors to be identified. The network of seven flux towers established during the project is believed to be unique on peatlands globally, and has provided new insights into the processes the control GHG fluxes in lowland peatlands. The work undertaken is intended to support the future development and implementation of agricultural management and restoration measures aimed at reducing the contribution of these important ecosystems to UK GHG emissions.

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