SER Webinar: Peatland Restoration as a Natural Climate Solution in Minnesota

Dr. Chris Lenhart

Publication Date:

Wetland restoration is increasingly being considered as a climate change adaptation by conservation organizations globally. Peatlands store as much as 30% of the world’s terrestrial carbon. The Nature Conservancy is developing natural climate solutions (NCS) as an approach to address climate change. Since peatlands are abundant in Minnesota, in the northern U.S., covering approximately 1,400,000 hectares, the TNC regional chapter is assessing the potential for peatland restoration as an NCS strategy. There are 2 to 3 million acres of wetlands classified as histosol soils, mucks with less organic matter than peat, that support other wetlands types  Most organic-soil wetlands in the southern half of Minnesota were drained for agriculture, while about 1/6 of northern peatlands were impacted by drainage for forestry, grazing or agriculture. Although most of the peatlands remain intact, recent research estimates annual loss of 38,000 Mg of carbon from oxidation from drainage. Carbon accumulation rates in Minnesota peatlands have been estimated to range from 0.5 Mg/ha/yr in northern peatlands to 3.0 Mg/ha/yr in southern Minnesota wetlands. Re-wetting of drained peatlands greatly reduces decomposition of organic matter, but can increase release of methane. Logistically it is easier to block shallower ditches surrounded by public lands then deep ditches near pastureland or roads.  Therefore, a three-pronged peatland restoration strategy for is recommended: protect large standing stocks of carbon in peatlands, re-wet partially drained peatlands in the north and restore large southern “mucklands” for short-term carbon sequestration and multiple benefits. Speaker: Dr. Chris Lenhart is SER’s CERP coordinator and a Research Assistant Professor with the BBE Department at the University of Minnesota and contributes to The Nature Conservancy, Mn-ND-SD chapter. His work focuses on focused on treatment wetlands, stream restoration and water quality management, particularly in agricultural areas.

Resource Type:

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program