Principal Investigator

Chris Lenhart


John Nieber

Industry Partner

Kristen Bland, The Nature Conservancy
Randall Kolka, U.S. Forest Service


It has been estimated that drained peatlands, without restoration, may account for 41% of the global carbon budget for maintaining a threshold temperature increase of 1.5-2 degree C . Peatland restorations are increasingly being done to address climate change by re-wetting them by blocking the ditch, for both carbon and hydrologic benefits. Rewetting drained peatlands will reduce CO2 emissions caused by decomposing organic matter but it may increase methane release, a stronger greenhouse gas (Hemes et al. 2018). Therefore water level in restored peatlands need to be optimized to minimize GHG emissions


In Minnesota, there is about 1 million acres of drainage-impacted peatlands and peatland restoration is being actively pursued by state agencies, non-profits like The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and private mitigation bank companies. Our study will help determine the optimal water level of restored peatlands to maximize their carbon sequestration benefit. We will work with TNC and state partners such as the Minnesota Board of Soil & Water Resources (BWSR) to incorporate our study findings into design standards for restored peatlands.


The data will be analyzed to determine the potential for water level management and wetland design to reduce GHG emissions. The findings will directly inform peatland restoration strategies through the “Peatland Playbook” of the TNC, Mn-ND-SD Chapter. We also anticipate producing at least one scientific publication from the mesocosm study. We will do a presentation to the TNC international Peatland Network in 2024 and likely present at one other conference, such as AGU.

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