Drainage effects on carbon budgets of degraded peatlands in the north of the Netherlands

Thomas P.A. Nijman, Quint van Giersbergen*, Tom S. Heuts, Reinder Nouta, Coline C.F. Boonman, Mandy Velthuis, Bart Kruijt, Ralf C.H. Aben, Christian Fritz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon (C). However, land-use-driven drainage causes peat oxidation, resulting in CO2 emission. There is a growing need for ground-truthing CO2 emission and its potential drivers to better quantify long-term emission trends in peatlands. This will help improve National Inventory Reporting and ultimately aid the design and verification of mitigation measures. To investigate regional drivers of CO2 emission, we estimated C budgets using custom-made automated chamber systems measuring CO2 concentrations corrected for carbon export and import. Chamber systems were rotated among thirteen degraded peatland pastures in Friesland (the Netherlands). These peatlands varied in water table depth (WTD), drainage-irrigation management (fixed regulated ditch water level (DWL), subsurface irrigation, furrow irrigation, or dynamic regulated DWL), and soil moisture. We investigated (1) whether drainage-irrigation management and related hydrological drivers could explain variation in C budgets, (2) how nighttime ecosystem respiration (Reconight) related to hydrological drivers, and (3) how C budgets compared with estimates from Tier 1 and Tier 2 models regularly used in National Inventory Reporting. Deep-drained peatlands largely overlapped with C budgets from shallow-drained peatlands. The variation in C budgets could not be explained with drainage-irrigation measures or annual WTD, likely because of high variation between sites. Reconightincreased from 85 to 250 kg CO2 ha−1 day−1 as the WTD dropped from 0 to 50 cm across all sites. A deeper WTD had no apparent effect on Reconight, which could be explained by the unimodal relationship we found between Reconight and soil moisture. Finally, C budgets estimated by Tier 1 emission factors and Tier 2 national models mismatched the between-site and between-year variation found in chamber-based estimated NECBs. To conclude, our study showed that shallow WTDs greatly determine C budgets and that regional C budgets, which can be accurately measure with periodic automated chamber measurements, are instrumental for model validation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number172882
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2024


  • Agricultural peatlands
  • Carbon cycling
  • Ecosystem services
  • Emission validation
  • Greenhouse gas measurements
  • Water level management


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