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Results from LIFE Peat Restore project contribute to broader application of indirect GHG emission assessment in peatlands

For developing a better methodology of indirect greenhouse gas (GHG) emission assessment in peatlands in Latvia, a new project was implemented by the Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) in cooperation with Nature Conservation Agency of Latvia. The project was financed by the Latvian Environmental Protection Fund. The project “Remote sensing methodology for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions in wetlands” (No. 1-08/146/2018) is aimed at using detailed remote sensing data and GEST methodology in assessment of GHG emissions. Project results were presented at the seminar “Methods for measuring greenhouse gases in peatland and other ecosystems” organized by IES on August 8, 2019, in Cēsis, Latvia. In the seminar, Māra Pakalne (University of Latvia) introduced the aims and importance of the LIFE Peat Restore project which contribute to improving the knowledge of direct and indirect GHG emission assessments in Latvia. LIFE Peat Restore expert Līga Strazdiņa (University of Latvia) explained the principles of GEST methodology, its pros and cons in situations in Latvia which differ from Germany in climate and vegetation aspects whereby studies of new GEST types are necessary. Both presentations are available here (1, 2), more detailed information about the seminar is available here.

Researchers of the University of Latvia and representatives of LIFE Peat Restore project, M. Pakalne and L. Strazdiņa, in the seminar about GHG measuring methods. Photo: IES, K. Libauers.

The objectives of the project were to estimate the GHG emissions in five pilot sites using remote sensing data. The study areas included alkaline fens in Lake Engure Nature Park, Madiešēnu and Namītēnu Mire in Augstroze Nature Reserve (all are also LIFE Peat Restore project sites), as well as Pēterezera and Kukšupe inter-dune mires in Slītere National Park and Sudas-Zviedru Mire in Gauja National Park, where peatland restoration was performed within the LIFE Wetlands project.

Calibrating remote sensing data and mapping of GEST-types in Kukšupe inter-dune mire in Slītere National Park. Photo: M. Pakalne
GEST-type “Wet peat moss lawn” in Madiešēnu Mire. Among all GEST-types that were identified in the project sites, this type emits the smallest amount of GHG. Photo: K. Libauers

Remote sensing data of the project areas was collected in June 2018, using airborne surveillance and environmental monitoring system (ARSENAL) that includes aircraft equipped with hyperspectral data sensor and LIDAR. During summer period, field data of GEST vegetation classes as a reference data for further remote sensing data analysis were collected. For all classified vegetation units corresponding GEST types were found.

At the result of GEST mapping, ten GEST-types were classified. The most common in all project sites are Wet tall sedges reeds and Wet peat moss hollows resp. flooded peat moss lawn, which represent fen and transition mire vegetation. The largest area was taken by Wet peat moss lawn that dominates in raised bog ecosystems.

Steps of GEST type classification in alkaline fen of Lake Engure Nature Park. Remote sensing data and EU habitat inventory results are used as input measures. Maps: IES.
GEST maps of raised bogs. Maps: IES.
GEST maps of inter-dune mires. Maps: IES.

For each project site, maps showing CO2, CH4 emission and global warming potential (GWP) were prepared. Different scenarios were modelled to measure the significance of planned or implemented peatland restoration actions in terms of GHG emissions. It was calculated that positive effect can be expected in all sites, for example, in degraded area of Madiešēnu Mire (Augstroze Nature Reserve) change of GEST-type and CO2 emission decrease for 56% were predicted within 50 years. Similar amount (CO2 emission decrease for 53%) was measured in Sudas-Zviedru Mire, while it was even higher (for 91%) in Pēterezera inter-dune mire after tree removal.

Current GHG measures in Sudas-Zviedru Mire. Emissions were estimated in tonnes per hectare in one year. Maps: IES.
Current GHG measures in Pēterezers inter-dune mire before restoration. Emissions were estimated in tonnes per hectare in one year. Maps: IES.
Modelled GHG measures in Pēterezers inter-dune mire after management. Emissions were estimated in tonnes per hectare in one year. Maps: IES.
GEST-type Oligotrophic peatland-Moderately moist Forest and shrubberies in the drained part of Madiešēnu Mire (Augstroze Nature Reserve). Blocking of ditches by peat dams within LIFE Peat Restore project and subsequent stabilisation of water table can result in change of GEST-types – either to Oligotrophic peatlands-Moist Forests and shrubberies or Wet peat moss lawn with pine trees. In any case, decrease of GHG emissions is expected. Photo: M. Pakalne.
Rewetting of peat surface and spreading of Sphagnum spp., Drosera spp. and Rhynchospora alba in Sudas-Zviedru Mire after building of peats on ditches results in decrease of GHG emissions. Photo: M. Pakalne.

The collaboration between LIFE Peat Restore and VRI within this project has significantly contributed to further development and approbation of GEST approach and its application in peatlands. The project results have improved the methodology and also served as a platform for potential broader application of GEST approach in Latvia and the surrounding region.