In the Netherlands, a large portion (~50%) of the land is managed by farmers, many of whom hold plots located on the country's well-known peat soils. These soils have been prized for centuries, but the reasons for their value have changed over time. Historically, Dutch peatland was vital for energy and food security. Nowadays, peat is notable for being one of the largest stores of carbon on land.
According to one estimate, drained peat covers only a small percentage (0.3%) of the world's land surface, yet it contributes a significant amount (6%) to global carbon emissions caused by humans . In Europe, more than half of peatlands have been damaged by drainage and are used for agriculture, forestry, and peat extraction.
Ongoing drainage of peat results in significant agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the Dutch landscape. However, there is growing evidence "rewetting" peat greatly reduces emissions, as well as provide other ecosystem services such as habitat provisioning and related social benefits for urban residents .
The topic of peat rewetting has gained attention in light of rising carbon emissions and emerging EU restoration policies. In 2022, Dr. Harald Grethe and colleagues conducted an analysis for the German government and found that rewetting is the most economically profitable activity on farms with peat soil, by a large margin . This has led to various efforts and initiatives to manage emissions.
Although a diversity of stakeholders are positioned to contribute, many lack systems to constructively engage.
The scientific community has made a number of recommendations to governments and other stakeholders, including:
These recommendations highlight the importance of collaboration between different stakeholders to find solutions. The Wij.land organization is already involved or actively planning efforts in each of these domains. Their link with progressive farmers has contributed to adoption - faster, and at larger scale - of new rewetting strategies and monitoring protocols. By helping communities like Wij.land to scale-up, share data in real time and engage stakeholders, Open.Landscape.Network is enabling solutions.
In 2020, the Wij.land community adopted the Open.Landscape.Network to support their efforts. They started a project to connect leading peatland farmers to financial institutions and carbon buyers in the supply chain, in order to support an 'insetting' approach.
The Wij.land Carbon project links farms' data (supported by advisors qualified to verify accuracy) to financial networks and marketplaces in search of high-quality credits. Farmers with a relationship to participating banks who can show 'additionality' in reducing emissions are now able to sell agricultural carbon credits - a pioneering step in the Netherlands and Europe (where credits remain outside official markets).
The Open.Landscape.Network is used to plan interventions, collect data, and communicate between farmers, advisors, and financial institutions. It acts as a centrally accessible 'system of record' for public and private data, from herd size to soil sample results. With farmer permission, the data is used for validation purposes to prove compliance, meet long-term data verification requirements and track credits' issuance.
There are still many uncertainties in agricultural (and peat-based) carbon emissions, and research is ongoing on monitoring and compensation schemes. However, successful early-stage outcomes of this project demonstrate the increasing feasibility of such innovations.
As more nature-related projects seek to provide carbon solutions, there is a growing need to audit, verify, and scale up carbon management efforts by farmers and other landholders. The open landscape network is being used as a robust infrastructure to support this transformation.
The system is helping nature-based carbon projects to manage social, environmental, and related economic information, engage funders, and raise the quality of 'green' financial products to secure new income streams on behalf of their member farms.
1 - Deru, Joachim. (2021). Soil quality and ecosystem services of peat grasslands. Wageningen University. https://doi.org/10.18174/548000
2 - Wilson, D. (2022). Carbon and climate implications of rewetting a raised bog in Ireland. Global Change Biology. 28;21. doi: 10.1111/gcb.16359
3 - Klimaschutz im Agrar-und Ernährungssystem Deutschlands: Die drei zentralen Handlungsfelder auf dem Weg zur Klimaneutralität. H Grethe, J Martinez, B Osterburg, F Taube, F Thom - Im Auftrag der Stiftung Klimaneutralität (2021). URL. Updated here.
4 - Schrier-Uijl, A.P., Veraart, A.J., Leffelaar, P.A. et al. Release of CO2 and CH4 from lakes and drainage ditches in temperate wetlands. Biogeochemistry 102, 265–279 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-010-9440-7