Irish grasslands could be valuable carbon sink

Ireland's uncultivated grasslands and peat bogs are soaking up enough carbon dioxide to make them significant sinks for carbon dioxide, according to the country's environmental regulator.

The Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working with Teagasc and University College Cork over the past five years to assess how effective the country’s open spaces are at absorbing carbon.

The study at sites in the south-east and south-west of Ierland indicates that grasslands can take up between 11 tonnes and 18 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air, per hectare per year.

Natural peatland site in Co Kerry was shown to be a less effective sink.

The EPA has also funded studies on croplands, which will be published shortly.

Most of the carbon dioxide is recycled as animal feed but it is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of the carbon is sequestered into the soil, where it can reside for much longer time periods.

EPA director Laura Burke said: “These are important results from research which the EPA has funded. Grassland is the dominant land use in Ireland and these results show that management of Irish grassland can have an important role in addressing climate change.

“The outcome of this research is an important step-up in our understanding. Ireland has more than three million hectares of managed grassland.

“If this result were replicated across this area it would amount to a considerable sink. However, some other land uses are likely to be a source of carbon dioxide so a simple scaling up of these data can be misleading.

“Overall, the main message is positive and we need to use these results to inform decisions on the future use of grassland and other land.”

Sam Bond

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