Peatland restoration and management as a climate change adaptation strategy for The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, USA

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Christian Lenhart and Kristen Blann

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Wetland restoration is a potential strategy for climate change adaptation being assessed by many organizations. Peatlands store a disproportionately large percentage of carbon found in soil globally. Recently, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) developed natural climate solutions (NCS) for the U.S. to address climate change, but peatlands were not ranked highly as a strategy because they are not widespread. However, they are abundant in Minnesota, so the TNC Minnesota-North DakotaSouth Dakota chapter is assessing the potential for peatland restoration as an NCS strategy. Peatlands in Minnesota cover approximately 1,400,000 ha and are the single largest carbon stock in the state. There are 0.8 to 1.2 million ha more wetlands with muck soil (>12 % organic matter) that support forested swamp or marshes. Carbon accumulation rates in Minnesota peatlands were estimated by Anderson et al. (2008) to be 0.5 Mg/ha/yr, while southern wetlands at were estimated at 3.0 Mg/ha/yr. In total, peatland restoration could mitigate for 1.7 Mg CO2 /ha/year, with southern wetlands providing an additional 11.1 Mg CO2 /ha/year. These numbers suggest there should be more focus on southern muck wetlands. Therefore a three-pronged wetlands restoration strategy is recommended: protect large northern peatlands, re-wet partially drained unprotected peatlands and restore large southern “mucklands” in agricultural areas for short-term (20-40 year) carbon sequestration gains. While southern wetlands accumulate carbon more quickly it is less feasible to restore wetlands in the highly agricultural southern part of the state due to high costs of land, making northern projects more cost effective.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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