NINA news

New calculator for peatland volume and carbon stock

Published on: 23. January 2024
Author: Trine Hay Setsaas

NINA researchers have developed a calculator for local peatland volume and carbon stock, providing decision-makers with the necessary knowledge to limit carbon emissions from soil.

New calculator for peatland volume and carbon stock
Photo: Juliet Landrø/NINA

Soil carbon is invaluable in the combat against climate change, as three times as much carbon is stored in soil than in the atmosphere. Peatlands, harbouring more than 20% of the global soil organic carbon are under great pressure from land use change, with negative effects on global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Researchers from NINA therefore developed CarbonViewer, a tool and easy-to-use app that reliably calculates carbon stocks of delimited peatlands in the Nordic countries to assess potential soil carbon loss in planned infrastructure development, providing decision makers with the necessary knowledge base to limit GHG emissions from soil carbon.

Area and volume of peatlands affected by infrastructure development are poorly documented. A practical and user-friendly tool for rapid assessment of peat volume and carbon content of peatlands considered for infrastructure development was therefore urgently needed, says Magni Olsen Kyrkjeeide, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research.

An easy-to-use tool for decision-makers

CarbonViewer can be used in all peatland types in subarctic, boreal, hemiboreal, and northern temperate climate zones. It uses peat depth to interpolate total peat volume on a relatively small peatland scale, therefore excluding spatial covariates relevant on larger spatial scales, such as topography and climate.

With an end goal to minimize the loss of carbon rich areas, Carbon Viewer requires simple data collection with inexpensive equipment, making it an easy-to-use tool for decision-makers across various sectors, says Kyrkjeeide.

Although CarbonViewer provides estimates for current soil organic carbon stock in peat, it is not suited to evaluate the changes in GHG emissions from peatlands caused by land use changes. Kyrkjeeide concludes that, determining impacts of infrastructure development on peatlands must be assessed with a holistic approach considering impacts on both climate and biodiversity. Developing tools to evaluate synergies and tradeoffs between them are of utmost importance.  

Reference: Magni Olsen Kyrkjeeide et al.: A calculator for local peatland volume and carbon stock to support area planners and decision makers, Carbon Management, 2023

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Norwegian Institute for Nature Research

NINA is an independent foundation for nature research and research on the interaction between human society, natural resources and biodiversity.
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