Carbon emissions and removals from Irish peatlands: present trends and future mitigation measures

David Wilson, Christoph Müller, Florence Renou-Wilson


In the Republic of Ireland, peatlands cover an estimated 20% of the land area and have been widely utilised over the centuries for energy production, agriculture, forestry and horticultural production. Current estimates suggest that only a small proportion of Irish peatlands are in a natural condition, and that the remainder are either moderately or severely damaged. In this paper, we reviewed carbon (C) studies for the major peatland land uses in Ireland and have estimated that at the national level, emissions from Irish peatlands and related activities (e.g. combustion, horticulture) are around 3 Mt C each year to the atmosphere. However, large uncertainties are associated with this value (1.3–4.7 Mt C yr1) due to a paucity of field studies for some peatland land uses (particularly cutover peatlands). Mitigation measures to reduce national emissions from peatlands could include: (1) a stronger enforcement approach to protect and enhance the C store in natural peatlands, (2) the rewetting / restoration of degraded peatlands to reduce emissions and create suitable conditions for C sequestration and (3) the use of alternative non-peat sources for energy production and horticulture use.

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