Restoring the carbon sequestration capacity of NW-European peat lands

Prof. Emiel Elferink1, Prof. dr. Toine Smits2, Wim van Hooff3

1Van Hall Larenstein, Leeuwarden, Netherlands, 2Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, 3NL RNT, Breda, Netherlands

Peatlands play an important role in carbon balances and climate change. Covering 3% of the earth’s surface, estimates are that global peat lands store over 1.4 trillion tons of carbon. However, mismagement of peatlands causes carbon emission to the atmosphere. At present, mismanaged peatlands emit double the amount of CO2 emissions compared to aviation. On the global scale, Indonesia is no1 in CO2 emission by peatlands because of transforming tropical forests into palm oil plantations.

However, Europe is no2 on this ranking list!! This is caused by continuous draining of peat lands by traditional agricultural practices such as dairy farming and urban expansion.

There are four running European funded research projects (c. 4-5 million Euro each) that aim at reversing this process: Carbon Connects1, Care Peat2, Canape3 and Peat Restore4

Each project has its own focal point but they all aim at developing and applying new business models that no longer require the drainage of peatlands and/or restore peatlands resulting in a substantial reduction of carbon to the atmosphere.

Examples of these innovative business models comprise low carbon construction materials (e.g. cattail, reed), green fuel, meat production (water buffalo) and cranberry production.

Apart from these new wetland commodities some of these projects also explore the use of the Carbon Credit system 5 and development of a new Blue Credit system  (financial incentives to retain water) to subsidise the farmers/landowners in this land use transformation process.

Apart from developing and applying technological innovations directed at new business models and GHG monitoring techniques this European consortium experiments also with new co-creation techniques such as Living Labs in order to involve public and private organisations and jointly to identify tailor made solutions for each region.

In this article/conference contribution we will describe the latest insights and preliminary results of this European endeavour.


Dr. Emiel Elferink is an applied research professor ‘Sustainable Soil Management’ at the applied university Van Hall Larenstein in Leeuwarden (NL). He leads a research group that focuses on the relation between agriculture management, biobased economy and healthy soila. Especially soil biology, soil ecology and soil organic matter in relation to climate change are leading research topics. The goal is to come to practical solutions for farmers, companies and landowners that contribute to a more sustainable soil management. Furthermore he is responsible for the knowledge centre and consortium on healthy soils

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