INBO Research Challenges

Ecosystem-based mitigation

Ecosystems have an important role to play in the fight against global warming. Flanders is committed to a policy where ecosystems have a mitigating effect. INBO supports this policy by researching climate mitigation by biogeochemical and biogeophysical effects. Biogeochemical effects include preserving carbon stocks, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and stimulating carbon sequestration. The focus is on (semi-)natural ecosystems, ranging from unmanaged forests to intensive production forests, and from dry heathlands to peaty wetlands. Among the biophysical effects, we focus on changes in crown closure or evapotranspiration that affect microclimate. Ecosystems can also provide corridors that enable the migration of climate-sensitive species.

Central research questions are:

  • Monitoring soil and biomass carbon stocks, the impact of land use change and adapted management practices on carbon stocks, and specifically the role of wetlands in the greenhouse gas balance. These data are needed for policy support, for example for LULUCF reporting, carbon certification, short chain and circular economy.
  • What factors stimulate or stabilise underground and above-ground carbon sequestration? Here we not only look at various soil properties, soil biodiversity and ecohydrological factors, but also at the impact of acidifying and eutrophying depositions.
  • In what ways can specific management systems mitigate the effects of climate change on biodiversity, e.g. by taking microclimate into account?

To this end, INBO uses area-wide monitoring networks such as the soil carbon monitoring network (Cmon), ICP Forests and LTER, and several international projects focusing on carbon hotspots, such as ancient forests, wetlands and peatlands. In a broader context we pay attention to perceptions and public support for specific management measures, and possible trade-offs with other ecosystem services and biodiversity.

Future research topics include:

  • Dynamically measuring real-time greenhouse gas fluxes (CO2 , CH4 , N2 O) from soils, using mobile chambers to investigate management, water level, water quality and nutrient richness conditions leading to maximum carbon sequestration.
  • Quantifying carbon stocks in above-ground and below-ground biomass. Together with soil carbon data, these figures are needed to answer policy questions. This will also help to compare different management strategies, e.g. unmanaged forests versus increased harvesting and carbon storage in wood products.
  • Evaluating the potential of carbon certification, by providing numerical evidence to select appropriate measures and estimate their impacts.

Cooperation with other institutes and universities at national and international level is essential. This allows us to build additional expertise, especially for measuring greenhouse gas fluxes, for modelling and for policy support.


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