EGU23-16021, updated on 21 Oct 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Drainage Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Grasslands and Croplands on Nutrient-rich Organic Soils in Baltic Countries

Hanna Vahter1, Muhammad Kamil Sardar Ali1, Thomas Schindler1, Andis Lazdiņš2, Ain Kull1, Ieva Līcīte2, Ülo Mander1, Aldis Butlers2, Jyrki Jauhiainen3, Dovile Ciuldiene4, and Kaido Soosaar1
Hanna Vahter et al.
  • 1University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia (
  • 2Latvian State Forest Research Institute "Silava" (
  • 3Natural Resources Institute Finland, Luke (
  • 4Institute of Forestry, Lithuanian Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry (

Organic soils are one of the largest natural terrestrial carbon stores, especially in boreal, temperate, and tropical wet climates. In these environments, scarcity of oxygen due to soil wetness has enabled the accumulation of organic carbon deposits over the past millennia. In Europe, organic soils account for only 3% of total agricultural land. Yet, they play a significant role in meeting Europe's 2030 and 2050 climate change mitigation targets. However, drainage of these soils, as a common management practice aiming for higher agricultural productivity, transforms these carbon-rich soils into a significant GHG source.

Water-level management practices are critical in agriculture to minimize soil degradation and nutrient leaching. Fluctuations in water levels may alter soil physical and chemical conditions and potentially cause GHG emissions. Deep draining leads to an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions due to increased soil mineralization. On the other hand, methane (CH4) emissions are lower compared to natural wetlands where soil drainage and tillage do not occur. Land use, climate zone, soil nutrient status, fertilization, and drainage status are closely related to estimating GHG budgets from managed sites on organic soils.

Available data on actual GHG emissions from drained and nutrient-rich organic soils under different management practices show considerable variation. Therefore our study's main objectives are: (I) to update GHG emission factors for organic soils in drained croplands and grasslands and (ii) to calculate soil carbon and nitrogen budgets applicable to the Baltic countries. A two-year study was conducted from January 2021 to December 2022 to assess the impact of drainage and land use on GHG fluxes in the Baltic countries.

Fluxes in croplands and perennial grassland on nutrient-rich organic soils with different drainage conditions were determined by groups: (I) excessively drained croplands, (II) excessively drained grasslands, (III) moderately drained grasslands, (IV) rewetted grasslands, and (V) non-managed fens as reference sites. Measurements were done monthly (Latvia and Lithuania) or twice per month (Estonia) using the manual static dark chamber method (N2O, CH4), the dynamic transparent chamber method for net ecosystem exchange, and the dynamic dark chamber for soil heterotrophic respiration (CO2). In addition, we measured associated environmental parameters (water table level, soil moisture and temperature, and solar radiation). For biomass analyses, we took samples once in the measurement period.

Our preliminary results show that all grasslands were annual CH4 sinks, while fens soils in natural status were a source of CH4. All studied sites were N2O sources on an annual basis, and croplands were the strongest emitters, as was expected. Higher N2O emissions and temporal variability were associated with sites characterized by high groundwater levels with high seasonal fluctuations. Soil heterotrophic respiration fluxes peaked over all the study sites during the summer. As the last field campaign shortly ended, more detailed data analyses will be presented at the conference.

This research was supported by the LIFE programme project "Demonstration of climate change mitigation potential of nutrients rich organic soils in Baltic States and Finland", (2019-2023, LIFE OrgBalt, LIFE18 274CCM/LV/001158).

How to cite: Vahter, H., Sardar Ali, M. K., Schindler, T., Lazdiņš, A., Kull, A., Līcīte, I., Mander, Ü., Butlers, A., Jauhiainen, J., Ciuldiene, D., and Soosaar, K.: Drainage Impact on Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Grasslands and Croplands on Nutrient-rich Organic Soils in Baltic Countries, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-16021,, 2023.