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Expert Scientific Statement: The Potential of Irish Grassland Soils to Sequester Atmospheric Carbon

05 May 2016


PDF icon The Potential of Irish Grassland Soils to Sequester Atmospheric Carbon

Expert Statement on ‘The Potential of Irish Grassland Soils to Sequester Atmospheric Carbon’. 

This paper, which was authored by Professor Ger Kiely, MRIA, Environmental Research Institute, UCC, illustrates how Irish grasslands sequester (fix) significant amounts of atmospheric carbon in their soils, however this will only be acknowledged in IPCC greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting methods when Ireland can produce evidence-based Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of carbon sequestration. This carbon sequestration could be used to partially offset the greenhouse gas emissions (methane and nitrous oxide) from agriculture.

Field experiments across the World, using carbon dioxide gas sensors and wind velocity measurements, have found that grasslands and especially temperate grasslands sequester atmospheric carbon in the grass biomass and in the soils. This new carbon sequestered in the soils is fixed in the root system and in the soil material. Other experiments show that many grassland soils around the World are not saturated with carbon and so have potential to add more carbon from the atmosphere. Recent experiments across Europe have shown that the carbon fixed to soils ranges from approximately 0.25 to 1.75 Tonnes of Carbon per hectare per year. The quantity depends on the climate, soil type and management practice (e.g. grazing or silage harvesting).

To benefit from these findings, Professor Kiely says that ‘Ireland needs to institute an evidence-based Measurement, Reporting and Verification system to quantify more precisely its soil carbon sequestration in grasslands’.  

Click here to read the statement

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