Research shows that abandoned agricultural land in Europe can lower the temperature to 1.8 degrees Farenheit
Abandoned agricultural land could, according to a new study, play an important role in partially compensating for rising temperatures throughout Europe.
A team of scientists, led by Francesco Cherubini from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, discovered that in Western Europe the soil temperature on abandoned farmland could be up to 1.8 degrees Farenheit cooler than on active farms.
The cooling was attributed to various factors, including new tree growth, which helped to absorb greenhouse gasses such as CO2 and deflect sunlight.
A team of researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology discovered that the temperatures on abandoned farmland in Western Europe could be up to 1.8 degrees Farenheit cooler than it was when the farms were operating
There was also greater evapotranspiration, the process by which water evaporates from wetlands, tree leaves and other moisture sources, reducing the amount of solar energy absorbed by the soil.
“The message is very clear: abandoned arable land – or land change in general – and its role in the regional climate can help us adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change,” Cherubini told Phys.org.
“And by improving farming systems, we can free up land for multiple purposes.”
The team collected satellite data from the European Space Agency collected between 1992 and 2015 and identified eight general land use categories: evergreen coniferous forest, deciduous forest, open bushland, arable land, urban and cultivated land, arable land / natural vegetation mosaic, wetland, and grassland.
They created a computer program that modeled the changes in the climate during the same time, based on real atmospheric observations.
The team then compared the results of the model with a series of different regional climate studies to ensure that their numbers were accurate.
The team said several factors contributed to the cooling phenomenon, including more trees to absorb CO2 and repel sunlight, meaning less solar energy was absorbed by the ground
The team discovered that the same cooling phenomenon did not occur in Eastern Europe, where abandoned farmland actually became hotter, which they attributed to a drier general climate that became even hotter without regular irrigation and irrigation.
In total, they found that more than 25 million hectares of agricultural land had been abandoned throughout Europe during the 24 years for which they had data, about the same size as Switzerland.
The main causes of land abandonment were socio-economic, according to the team.
WHAT IS REWILDING?
Rewilding is intended to bring the country back to a more natural state – by letting nature take its course.
Activists and plans argue that rewilding is encouraged to save essential areas and species.
One site, called Rewilding Europe, calls it giving nature a ‘helping hand’.
Their site reads: “We can help by creating the right conditions – by removing dikes and dams to clear rivers, by stopping the active management of wildlife populations, by allowing natural forest regeneration and by reintroducing species they have disappeared as a result of human actions.
“Then we have to take a step back and let nature manage itself.”
Plans include the introduction of long-lost or valuable keystone species in a region and the preservation of the natural order.
“People are tired of living in the countryside, or they no longer want to work on their farm,” he said.
“We saw this mainly in the former Soviet Union after the fall of the (Berlin) wall, because farmers were exposed to trade in agricultural products and international markets.”
Other studies have focused on tree growth, which helps to remove CO2 from the air, but Cherubini and his team wanted to focus on a more holistic set of statistics, including water evaporation rates, humidity and soil moisture.
Interestingly, the effect did not apply to Eastern Europe, where the team saw the land temperatures rise on abandoned farmland.
The team attributed this to a drier climate, which meant that less water was available for evaporation and more energy from the sun was absorbed directly into the land, which raised the surface temperature.
This suggests that different land management strategies are needed for different regions.
“The ambition here is to have land management planning where you can meet the global challenges of carbon storage through land management combined with strategies that have local cooling benefits,” he said.