Carbon Sequestration in Wetland Soils

  • Klaus LorenzEmail author
  • Rattan Lal


Crops adapted to wetland conditions such as rice (Oryza sativa L.) have been cultivated on waterlogged anoxic soils for millennia. Grazing of livestock is another important agricultural activity in wetlands. Wetlands including peatlands may cover up to 26.9 million km2 globally, and wetlands may contain up to 158 Pg soil organic carbon (SOC) to 1 m depth, but knowledge on wetland distribution, extent, and volume needs to be strengthened. Peatlands are organic-rich wetlands and cover ~4 million km2 with large areas in the Northern Hemisphere. Over centuries to millennia, organic soils of peatlands have accumulated globally >750 Pg of carbon (C) as peat, sometimes to several meters depth as decomposition rates are greatly reduced under wet and acidic soil conditions. Thus, peatlands while covering only 3% of the global ice-free land area store more than one-fourth of the global SOC stock. Stocks in northern peatlands alone may store >600 Pg C, and their utilization for agriculture may release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) by peat oxidation. For example, ~1 Pg CO2 is emitted annually from drained peatlands (including emissions from fire), with high emissions especially from drained organic soils in tropical regions often for cultivation of oil palms (Elaeis guineensis Jacq.). Further, cumulative net emissions from global peatland use have been estimated at 6 Pg C for the period 1850–2015. Wetlands are also among the major biogenic methane (CH4) sources contributing to about 30% of the total CH4 emissions and will increasingly contribute to the projected climate change. Further, C losses from wetlands may also increase in the future because of the projected climate change. Thus, sustainable intensification (SI) should be applied to reduce CH4 and C losses from wetlands. Options include, for example, restoring drained agricultural land-use types to flooded conditions, improved fertilizer and water management of paddy fields, and breeding of new crop cultivars better adapted to anoxic wetland soil conditions. In this respect, paludiculture of wetlands is promising as a suitable agricultural practice with the cobenefit of C sequestration. This chapter begins with a general overview on wetlands and peatlands. Then, the peatland C balance is discussed in more detail. Agricultural use and management of wetland soils are presented in the following section. The final section discusses options for more ‘climate-friendly’ agriculture in wetlands.


Organic soils Paludiculture Tropical peatlands Oil palm cultivation Rice cultivation Methanogenesis Sustainable intensification Fire Gaseous emissions 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, School of Environment and Natural ResourcesThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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