Land cover change and soil organic carbon stocks in the Republic of Ireland 1851–2000

Abstract

Using both historic records and CORINE land cover maps, we assessed the impact of land cover change on the stock of soil organic carbon (SOC) in the Republic of Ireland from 1851 to 2000. We identified ten principal land cover classes: arable land, forest, grassland, heterogeneous agricultural areas/other, nonvegetated semi-natural areas, peatland, suburban, urban, water bodies, and wetland. For each land cover class, the SOC stock was estimated as the product of SOC density and land cover area. These were summed to calculate a national SOC budget for the Republic of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland’s 6.94 million hectares of land have undergone considerable change over the past 150 years. The most striking feature is the decrease in arable land from 1.44 million ha in 1851 to 0.55 million ha in 2000. Over the same time period, forested land increased by 0.53 million ha. As of 2000, agricultural lands including arable land (7.85%), grassland (54.33%), and the heterogeneous agricultural areas/other class (7.91%) account for 70.09% of Irish land cover. We estimate that the SOC stock in the Republic of Ireland, to 1 m depth, has increased from 1,391 Tg in 1851 to 1,469 Tg in 2000 despite soil loss due to urbanization. This increase is largely due to the increase of forested land with its higher SOC stocks when compared to agricultural lands. Peatlands contain a disproportionate quantity of the SOC stock. Although peatlands only occupy 17.36% of the land area, as of 2000, they represented 36% of the SOC stock (to 1 m depth).

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Correspondence to James M. Eaton.

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Eaton, J.M., McGoff, N.M., Byrne, K.A. et al. Land cover change and soil organic carbon stocks in the Republic of Ireland 1851–2000. Climatic Change 91, 317–334 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-008-9412-2

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Keywords

  • Land Cover
  • Soil Organic Carbon
  • Arable Land
  • Carbon Stock
  • Land Cover Class