Andrey Sirin, abstract

Sustainable management of boreal peatlands for mitigation of climate change

Andrey Sirin
Institute of Forest Science Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow Region, Russia

Peatlands are essential ecosystems of the boreal zone as excessive moisture promote paludification. In many countries peatlands (forested, sparsely treed and open) belong to forest lands. Forest vegetation indicates better drainage and, hence, greater depend peatlands on climate. Water balance is a key to stability of peatlands; shallow peat lands are the most vulnerable to climate change. Peatlands contain disproportionally more organic carbon than neighboring ecosystems on mineral soils including forests. They also affect atmospheric burdens of CH4 and N2O – much stronger than CO2 greenhouse gases, and so play a complex role with respect to climate. GHG fluxes in peatlands have a spatial (ecosystem, site ets.) and temporal (interannual, seasonal, diurnal etc.) variability, which needs to be considered in assessment and management. Small changes in the hydrology and ecology can lead to big changes in GHG fluxes. Direct (forestry, agriculture, peat extraction) and indirect (construction etc.) peatland uses are usually linked with drainage which leads to increased CO2 emissions in general, an increase in N2O release in nutrient rich peatlands, and may not always significantly reduce CH4 emissions. Nowadays, large areas of boreal peatlands drained for agriculture are left abandoned; many drained forests already reached rotation period raising question of their post-harvest use, and peat extraction is decreasing. Restoration of degraded peatlands is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding anthropogenic GHG emissions. But to generate benefit for climate wise use approach integrating protection, sustainable use and restoration of peatlands is needed.