More surface water means less global warming. That’s the conclusion drawn by scientists at the University of Sheffield, which found that the water table — the level below which the ground water is saturated with water — will also improve the growth of crops and slow the loss of peat soils.
The study, profiled on the University of Sheffield’s site, says that a third of all greenhouse gases tied to humans are caused by agriculture. If those releases can be cut down, it would reduce the effects of global warming that include global food shortages while improving the amount of agricultural land.
A significant proportion of the UK’s farming takes place on drained peatlands, which are some of the most productive soils for commercial agriculture, the university writes on its site. Draining naturally flooded peatlands, which are organically rich, triggers the carbon to oxidise and release CO2 into the atmosphere, it adds.
“It is estimated that in 30 years’ time the world’s population will reach 10 billion so it is vital that any means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions do not impact negatively on global food security,” said
Dr. Donatella Zona, senior author of the study from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.
“We are losing our peat soils in the UK at a fast rate, and we need to find solutions to decrease this loss if we want to preserve our food security,” the story continued. “In this study, we investigated the effects of water table levels, elevated CO2 and agricultural production on greenhouse gas fluctuations and the crop productivity of radishes which are one of the most economically important fenland crops.”
Increasing the water table by 20 centimeters reduced soil emissions and improved the growth of crops, the says Dr. Zona: “Flooding peatland would be too extreme and damage crops, but increasing the water level by just 20cm maintains current food production — or as shown in our study even increases it, while at the same time reducing carbon oxidation and emissions.”