The Beatlands occupy only three percent of the world’s land area, but all of the earth’s soil plants together store a significant amount of carbon, and they have a unique biological diversity.
In their natural state, the Beatlands can withstand climate change by continuously absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it safely in water-soaked conditions for thousands of years. But many areas of charcoal have been heavily altered by humans, through drainage and ditches to improve agriculture and forestry. Disposal of charcoal lands will provide fertile arable land as numerous plant nutrients are released when the charcoal is oxidized and begins to decompose.
Recovering Beatland is not realistic
As a result, approximately 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year – equivalent to three percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities.
Researchers have estimated how much less emissions there would be if all of the Earth’s cultivated land were reclaimed. However, as large sections of the population depend on these lands for their livelihood, it would not be realistic to expect all cultivated clay soils to be submerged and returned to their natural state in the future.
Half drain depth will help
Therefore, the research team studied what it would mean if today’s drainage depth was half that of fields and paths in the Beatlands – with an area of more than 250,000 square kilometers worldwide. It turned out that this could also be a significant measure to prevent climate change. According to the study, emissions could be reduced by about 500 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which is equivalent to 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activities.
Most of the greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and Southeast Asia occur in Europe and Southeast Asia, and in many countries (including the United Kingdom) the total area is now covered by carbon, without carbon sinking, due to greenhouse gas emissions from degraded coal. Researchers say there is growing consensus on the importance of beetlands to the global climate system, and that more efforts are being made to control emissions by protecting untouched groundwater and re-irrigating drained soil.
Extensive degradation of Beetland
– As part of their contribution to the climate agreement in the Paris Agreement, Professor Chris Evans, a researcher at the UK Center for Ecology and Hydro in Bangkok, said that if the UK and other countries are to achieve the long-term environmental goal of a net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, comprehensive degradation must be addressed in the Beatlands. SLU
“Concerns about the economic and social consequences of reclaiming farmland have prevented large-scale restructuring, but our study shows that even the development of domestically adapted mitigation measures could lead to a significant reduction in emissions,” Evans continues.
For example, researchers see practical challenges in regulating water storage and groundwater levels, as well as growing crops to adapt to wet conditions in groundwater – the so-called “macro-culture.” Research on wetland-embracing crops is ongoing, but so far there are no commercially viable alternatives to conventional agriculture.
However, researchers point out that there are good prospects for reclaiming agricultural soil to some extent without drastically restricting production, as many sites are exaggerated – sometimes to depths of more than two meters, and often even in times of crop failure.
Higher profitability with better water management
In addition to increased emissions, groundwater depletion also leads to depletion of ground surface and soil compaction, which affects soil health and increases the risk of flooding in low-lying areas. In addition, important habitats for rare wetland plants, insects and mammals are disappearing.
– Our results make a challenge clear, but a great opportunity. Better water management in the Beatlands can offer a number of benefits – lower greenhouse gas emissions, improved soil health and longer land use, says Michael Mayil, co-author and researcher at SLU’s Department of Water and Environment.
Researchers say half the drainage depth in agricultural beetlands could lead to a more sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions than their estimates show. This is because they do not take into account changes in the greenhouse gas emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), which may be more prevalent in deeply drained beetlands.
Michael Peacock, Researcher, Department of Water and Environment, SLU,
[email protected], Chris Evans, UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) Professor and Visiting Professor at SLU, [email protected]