Uncertainty in future N2O emissions due to land use change and socio-economic developments

L. Nol, P.H. Verburg, E.J. Moors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Better insight in the possible range of future N2O emissions can help to construct mitigation and adaptation strategies and to adapt land use planning and management to climate objectives. The Dutch fen meadow landscape is a hotspot of N2O emission due to high nitrogen inputs combined with moist peat soils due to land use change. Socio-economic developments in the area are expected to have major impacts on N2O emission. The goals of this study are to estimate changes in N2O emissions for the period 2006–2040 under three different scenarios for the Dutch fen meadow landscape (rural production, rural fragmentation, and rural multifunctionality) and to quantify the share of different emission sources. Three scenarios were constructed and quantified based on the Story-And-Simulation approach. The rural production and the rural fragmentation scenarios are characterized by globalization and a market-oriented economy; in the rural production scenario dairy farming has a strong competitive position in the study region, while under the rural fragmentation scenario agriculture is declining. Under the rural multifunctionality scenario, the global context is characterized by regionalization and stronger regulation toward environmental issues. The N2O emission decreased between 2006 and 2040 under all scenarios. Under the rural production scenario, the N2O emission decreased by 7%. Due to measures to limit peat mineralization and policies to reduce agricultural emissions, the rural multifunctionality scenario showed the largest decrease in N2O emissions (44%). Under the rural fragmentation scenario, in which the dairy farming sector is diminished, the emission decreased by 33%. Compared to other uncertainties involved in N2O emission estimates, the uncertainty due to possible future land use change is relatively large and assuming a constant emission with time is therefore not appropriate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-90
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • nitrous-oxide emissions
  • methane emissions
  • scenario development
  • water-table
  • soil
  • uncertainty
  • inventory
  • model
  • scale
  • agriculture

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