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EPA Publication: Evidence Synthesis Report 3

EPA Publication: Evidence Synthesis Report 3

Date: 13 Mar 2023

Land Use Review: Fluxes, Scenarios and Capacity

New land use review report finds Ireland urgently needs an integrated approach to land management to address climate and biodiversity crises

A new report titled “Land Use Review Fluxes, Scenarios and Capacity” has been published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Land use in Ireland is dominated by grasslands, with significant areas of forestry and wetland, which are not distributed evenly across the country. The report assesses the latest information on land use and land-based greenhouse gas fluxes in Ireland. The research team investigated observed and projected climate change impacts on the land system and examined land use change compatible with net-zero goals for Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use (AFOLU) by 2050. It also explored the potential impacts of land use change on biodiversity and water quality with policy interactions also considered. 

Key finding from the report:

  • Land use and land cover in Ireland is dominated by grasslands, with significant areas of forestry and wetland. Many important forms of land cover are not evenly distributed across the country. 
  • The Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use (AFOLU) sector in Ireland is a substantial greenhouse gas source, which poses a significant challenge for national climate change mitigation targets. 
  • Changes to the climate system in Ireland have been observed and are projected to increase over the coming decades, having significant impacts on the land system and how it functions.  
  • Achieving net-zero greenhouse emissions for AFLOU by 2050 will be very challenging. Measures considered in this report included afforestation, peatland/organic soil restoration, reduced emission intensity along with changes to livestock numbers. 
  • Land-use change targeted at climate mitigation pose potential threats to biodiversity and water quality. To avoid such trade-offs an integrated approach to land use and management is required. 
  • Policy targets for land use in Ireland are often inconsistent with the levels of change consistent with climate mitigation goals. Important knowledge gaps and enabling factors were also identified. 

The report is the culmination of a research project led by Atlantic Technological University (ATU) academics Dr Eamon Haughey, Dr James Moran, and Ruth Bennett Coady, in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin academic Mathew Saunders and University of Galway’s David Styles.