Can carbon offsetting pay for upland ecological restoration?



Worrall F, Evans MG, Bonn A, Reed MS, Chapman DS & Holden J (2009) Can carbon offsetting pay for upland ecological restoration?. Science of The Total Environment, 408 (1), pp. 26-36.

Upland peat soils represent a large terrestrial carbon store and as such have the potential to be either an ongoing net sink of carbon or a significant net source of carbon. In the UK many upland peats are managed for a range of purposes but these purposes have rarely included carbon stewardship. However, there is now an opportunity to consider whether management practices could be altered to enhance storage of carbon in upland peats. Further, there are now voluntary and regulated carbon trading schemes operational throughout Europe that mean stored carbon, if verified, could have an economic and tradeable value. This means that new income streams could become available for upland management. The ‘Sustainable Uplands’ RELU project has developed a model for calculating carbon fluxes from peat soils that covers all carbon uptake and release pathways (e.g. fluvial and gaseous pathways). The model has been developed so that the impact of common management options within UK upland peats can be considered. The model was run for a decade from 1997–2006 and applied to an area of 550km2 of upland peat soils in the Peak District. The study estimates that the region is presently a net sink of −62ktonnes CO2 equivalent at an average export of −136tonnes CO2 equivalent/km2/yr. If management interventions were targeted across the area the total sink could increase to −160ktonnes CO2/yr at an average export of −219tonnes CO2 equivalent/km2/yr. However, not all interventions resulted in a benefit; some resulted in increased losses of CO2 equivalents. Given present costs of peatland restoration and value of carbon offsets, the study suggests that 51% of those areas, where a carbon benefit was estimated by modelling for targeted action of management interventions, would show a profit from carbon offsetting within 30years. However, this percentage is very dependent upon the price of carbon used.

Carbon; Peat; Offsetting; Restoration

Science of The Total Environment: Volume 408, Issue 1

FundersDepartment for Environment Food & Rural Affairs, Natural Environment Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date15/12/2009
Publication date online09/10/2009
Date accepted by journal13/09/2009

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Dr Daniel Chapman
Dr Daniel Chapman

Lecturer, Biological and Environmental Sciences