Peat oxidation and greenhouse gas emissions

Peatlands are naturally wet areas. Under these wet conditions, the decomposition of organic material is inhibited, causing it to accumulate and form peat. In the Netherlands, water levels are often kept low to drain this wet land and make it suitable for agriculture. This puts the peat in contact with the air, causing the peat to break down (peat oxidation). This in turn leads to increased CO2 emissions and land subsidence. To combat peat oxidation, water levels are raised in many places and attempts are being made to retain water in the peatlands. This will reduce CO2 emissions. If peat-forming vegetation recovers, such an area can eventually capture CO2 again. Wetting, however, can release methane (CH4), which is a 28 times stronger greenhouse gas than CO2. This is particularly the case when nutrient-rich peat soils are humidified, for example in former agricultural areas. Nitrous oxide (N2O) can also be released in nitrogen-rich areas, which has even 300 times more climate impact than CO2. The impact of wetland measures on the greenhouse gas balance of natural areas is receiving increasing attention. To quantify these effects, we can perform field measurements using so-called closed chambers and greenhouse gas analyzers to measure the emissions of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. By measuring both soil chemistry parameters and greenhouse gas emissions, the driving processes behind CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions can be visualized.