Water-table-driven greenhouse gas emission estimates guide peatland restoration at national scale

Julian Koch, Lars Elsgaard, Mogens H. Greve, Steen Gyldenkærne, Cecilie Hermansen, Gregor Levin, Shubiao Wu, Simon Stisen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The substantial climate change mitigation potential of restoring peatlands through rewetting and intensifying agriculture to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is largely recognized. The green deal in Denmark aims at restoring 100 000 ha of peatlands by 2030. This area corresponds to more than half of the Danish peatland, with an expected reduction in GHG emissions of almost half of the entire land use, land use change and forestry (LULUFC) emissions. Recent advances established the functional relationship between hydrological regimes, i.e., water table depth (WTD), and CO2 and CH4 emissions. This builds the basis for science-based tools to evaluate and prioritize peatland restoration projects. With this article, we lay the foundation of such a development by developing a high-resolution WTD map for Danish peatlands. Further, we define WTD response functions (CO2 and CH4) fitted to Danish flux data to derive a national GHG emission estimate for peat soils. We estimate the annual GHG emissions to be 2.6MtCO2-eq, which is around 15% lower than previous estimates. Lastly, we investigate alternative restoration scenarios and identify substantial differences in the GHG reduction potential depending on the prioritization of fields in the rewetting strategy. If wet fields are prioritized, which is not unlikely in a context of a voluntary bottom-up approach, the GHG reduction potential is just 30% for the first 10 000 ha with respect to a scenario that prioritizes drained fields. This underpins the importance of the proposed framework linking WTD and GHG emissions to guide a spatially differentiated peatland restoration. The choice of model type used to fit the CO2 WTD response function, the applied global warming potentials and uncertainties related to the WTD map are investigated by means of a scenario analysis, which suggests that the estimated GHG emissions and the reduction potential are associated with coefficients of variation of 13% and 22%, respectively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2387-2403
Number of pages17
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2023

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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