Understanding carbon sequestration in upland habitats
This project set out to review the current state of knowledge on the potential for carbon sequestration in key Scottish upland open habitats. Upland soils play a vital role in regulating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in our environment. Scotland’s soils contain 2500-3500 Mt of carbon, much of which is located in upland soil environments. This quantity of carbon is the equivalent of more than 200 years of annual emissions of greenhouse gases from the whole Scottish economy. To achieve Scotland’s ambitious net-zero emissions targets, sound management of uplands and their soils will thus be critical. Despite the potential of soils to store carbon, however, there is uncertainty as to the long-term stability of this carbon pool. Increasing temperatures, altered patterns of rainfall distribution and changes in land use threaten to reduce soil carbon stocks. This review identifies the key drivers of change such as: climate change; nitrogen deposition; changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations; and local land management factors such as grazing by sheep and deer, and burning to maintain habitat and vegetation quality for grazing animals and grouse. It covers three upland habitats: upland dry heath, upland wet heath and upland grasslands, defined by vegetation communities. It assesses potential greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes and the impact on biodiversity within these habitats.