Published March 7, 2022 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Back to the Future: Restoring Northern Drained Forested Peatlands for Climate Change Mitigation

  • 1. Stockholm University


Draining peatlands for forestry in the northern hemisphere turns their soils from carbon sinks to substantial sources of greenhouse gases (GHGs). To reverse this trend, rewetting has been proposed as a climate change mitigation strategy.We performed a literature review to assess the empirical evidence supporting the hypothesis that rewetting drained forested peatlands can turn them back into carbon sinks. We also used causal loop diagrams (CLDs) to synthesize the current knowledge of how water table management affects GHG emissions in organic soils. We found an increasing number of studies from the last decade comparing GHG emissions from rewetted, previously forested peatlands, with forested or pristine peatlands. However, comparative field studies usually report relatively short time series following rewetting experiments (e.g., 3 years of measurements and around 10 years after rewetting). Empirical evidence shows that rewetting leads to lower GHG emissions fromsoils. However, reports of carbon sinks in rewetted systems are scarce in the reviewed literature. Moreover, CH4 emissions in rewetted peatlands are commonly reported to be higher than in pristine peatlands. Long-term water table changes associated with rewetting lead to a cascade of effects in different processes regulating GHG emissions. The water table level affects litterfall quantity and quality by altering the plant community; it also affects organic matter breakdown rates, carbon and nitrogen mineralization pathways and rates, as well as gas transport mechanisms. Finally, we conceptualized three phases of restoration following the rewetting of previously drained and forested peatlands, we described the time dependent responses of soil, vegetation and GHG emissions to rewetting, concluding that while short-term gains in the GHG balance can be minimal, the long-term potential of restoring drained peatlands through rewetting remains promising.


Escobar 2022 - Restoring northern drained forested peatlands.pdf

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HoliSoils – Holistic management practices, modelling and monitoring for European forest soils 101000289
European Commission