Former wetlands that have been drained and which are currently used for forestry and agriculture give off 11.4 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which is virtual CO2 for climate accounting, but emissions from drained peatland are not visible since they are included with forest growth.
A new report from the Swedish Board of Agriculture, 'Emissions of Greenhouse Gases from Peatland, says that drained peatlands could be restored into wetlands so to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - drained peatlands that are used for forestry production show that nutrient-rich, well-drained areas of land release more greenhouse gases than nutrient-poor, wetter grounds do.
Restoring drained ground to wetland reduces the release of both carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the ground. Although the release of methane will increase in the long term, the decrease of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide will be greater which means that, all in all, greenhouse gas emissions from the ground will be reduced. So will food and forestry and living space, of course. Some three percent of Sweden's land area is drained peatland.
"Political measures must comprise either a reward or a penalty," says Åsa Kasimir, researcher at the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Gothenburg. "Either landowners pay for their greenhouse gas emissions or the government pays landowners to restore their drained land to wetland. The latter is probably a more likely route since the government used to advocate drainage. The new Rural Development Programme (Landsbygdsprogrammet) could be a way forward."