Spatial Analysis of Soil Subsidence in Peat Meadow Areas in Friesland in Relation to Land and Water Management, Climate Change, and Adaptation

Karlijn Brouns*, Tessa Eikelboom, Peter C. Jansen, Ron Janssen, Cees Kwakernaak, Jan J.H. van den Akker, Jos T.A. Verhoeven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Dutch peatlands have been subsiding due to peat decomposition, shrinkage and compression, since their reclamation in the 11th century. Currently, subsidence amounts to 1–2 cm/year. Water management in these areas is complex and costly, greenhouse gases are being emitted, and surface water quality is relatively poor. Regional and local authorities and landowners responsible for peatland management have recognized these problems. In addition, the Netherlands Royal Meteorological Institute predicts higher temperatures and drier summers, which both are expected to enhance peat decomposition. Stakeholder workshops have been organized in three case study areas in the province of Friesland to exchange knowledge on subsidence and explore future subsidence rates and the effects of land use and management changes on subsidence rates. Subsidence rates were up to 3 cm/year in deeply drained parcels and increased when we included climate change in the modeling exercises. This means that the relatively thin peat layers in this province (ca 1 m) would shrink or even disappear by the end of the century when current practices continue. Adaptation measures were explored, such as extensive dairy farming and the production of new crops in wetter conditions, but little experience has been gained on best practices. The workshops have resulted in useful exchange of ideas on possible measures and their consequences for land use and water management in the three case study areas. The province and the regional water board will use the results to develop land use and water management policies for the next decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-372
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • Climate change
  • GIS
  • Peat soils
  • Soil subsidence
  • Spatial analysis

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