‘Land use reports underestimate emissions’, says Trinity College

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin found that relying on annual data and not including land use history led to an underestimation of cropland by 46%.
‘Land use reports underestimate emissions’, says Trinity College

Their research should have major implications for policy in the wake of the recent Paris climate deal.

Ireland’s agriculture is dominated by grasslands, which are used by grazing animals, particularly cattle, for meat and milk production.

The land use raises a number of environmental issues, including phosphorus and nitrogen pollution and the creation of large amounts of greenhouse gases. The scientists point out that reporting on these issues requires precise knowledge of the area of grasslands and of other agriculture land use, mainly arable land.

Until now, it was assumed that about 90% of the agricultural area was being used as pasture, with a relatively small area dedicated to arable land. It was also assumed that there were relatively small changes in land use over time.

However, research by the Trinity team, published in the journal, Land Use Policy, shows that the view on Irish land use needs to be re-evaluated.

The scientists used the geographic database developed to help farmers and authorities with the single-farm payment scheme.

Research fellow in botany at TCD and lead author, Dr Jesko Zimmerman, said that while the area annually reported as cropland was on average 3,752 sq km, this area has been shifting around the country.

Between 2000 to 2102 only half of the area — 1,252 sq km could be considered permanent cropland. In contrast, the area that showed arable history in the time-frame was 7,373 sq km.

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