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Greenhouse gas mitigation potential of agricultural land in Great Britain

N. Fitton, C. P. Ejerenwa, A. Bhogal, P. Edgington, H. Black, A. Lilly, D. Barraclough, F. Worrall, J. Hillier, P. Smith
Soil use and management 2011 v.27 no.4 pp. 491-501
agricultural land, agronomy, climate change, forestry, grasses, grasslands, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, land use, nitrous oxide, nutrient management, plant cultural practices, England, Scotland, Wales
The aim of this paper is to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation potential of croplands and grasslands in Great Britain under different management practices. We consider the feasible land management options for grass and cropland using county level land‐use data with estimates of per‐area mitigation potential for individual and total GHGs, to identify the land management options with the greatest cost‐effective mitigation potential. We show that for grasslands, uncertainties still remain on the mitigation potential because of their climatic sensitivity and also their less intensive management. For croplands in Great Britain, the technical mean GHG mitigation potentials for all cropland management practices range from 17 Mt CO2‐eq. per 20 yr to 39 Mt CO2‐eq. per 20 yr. There are significant regional variation in all cases, with the greatest potentials in England, negligible potential in Wales and intermediate potential in Scotland, with country differences largely driven by the areas of cropland and grassland in each country. Practices such as agronomic improvement and nutrient management are the most promising options because of their impact on N2O emissions and also their larger potential at low cost. In terms of annual emissions from agriculture, calculated mitigation potentials are small, where the technical mitigation potential of agronomy and nutrient management strategies are ca. 4.5 and 3.8%, respectively (agricultural emissions account for ca. 9% or 47.7 Mt CO2‐eq., of total Great Britain GHG emissions, Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK). However when compared with the land use, land‐use change and forestry sector (LULUCF) emissions, nutrient management would reduce further emission reductions by approximately half of the 2005 LULUCF sink (i.e. −1.6 Mt CO2‐eq. per year).