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Estimating greenhouse gas fluxes from Belgian ecosystems under global change scenarios (METAGE)

Research project EV/14 (Research action EV)

Persons :

Description :

Currently the inventory of the fluxes of the major greenhouse gases (CO2, N2O and CH4) is carried out for the regions of Belgium under its obligations to the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. A standard methodology formulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been agreed for such inventories. However, there is great uncertainty concerning the role played by terrestrial ecosystems as sources or sinks of greenhouse gases at the regional to national scale. Furthermore, land use change induced by climate change and/or policy change is likely to affect the size of these sources and sinks in the future.

This project, therefore, seeks to bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers to develop a modelling framework capable of calculating greenhouse gas inventories for terrestrial ecosystems in Belgium by addressing these fluxes for individual landscape units. Furthermore, the project will test the effects of end-user driven scenarios of climate and land use change on future greenhouse gas fluxes. In order to achieve this objective, the ‘Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories’ will be adapted to operate at the landscape unit scale.
This will be achieved by improving the model parameters and emission functions based on ecosystem response functions for CO2 emissions and pedotransfer functions for N2O emissions to calculate key model parameters derived from experimental work in Belgium and neighbouring countries. The impacts of global change scenarios on CH4 emissions will be taken into account through the changes in livestock numbers in land use and land management scenarios. The application of land use change models within a geographical information system (GIS) will allow us to calculate the impact of plausible future scenarios of climate and socio-economic driven land use change on greenhouse gas fluxes. These scenarios will be developed in consultation with end-users. Thus, a key attribute of the proposed project is that it seeks to bring together results of fundamental scientific research with the international policy requirements.

The proposed work builds on the extensive experience of the project partners in land use change research (the Land Use / Cover Change (LUCC) programme office is based at UCL), climate change impact assessment (representation on the IPCC third assessment report), ecosystem modelling, extensive experimental work on greenhouse gas emissions from forest and agricultural ecosystems and quantitative land evaluation (current research projects under the European Commission Framework 5 Programme).

This work would contribute towards Belgium’s obligations under the Climate Change Convention and Kyoto protocol, as well as developing scientific understanding on landscape to national scale greenhouse gas fluxes from terrestrial ecosystems. The originality of the project lies in its attempt to integrate different global change modelling approaches with a GIS framework in order to develop a view of the future for Belgian terrestrial ecosystems.


Work package 1: Construction of the GIS framework
The GIS system consists of polygons derived from an overlay of the CORINE land cover map and the soil association map (Tavernier and Maréchal, 1972). Soil data (e.g. the ‘Aardewerk’ data base; Van Orshoven et al., 1993), climate data and miscellaneous data such as fertiliser use, livestock numbers and cultivated area per crop type are geo-referenced to the polygons.

Work package 2: Implementation of the IPCC greenhouse gas inventory models for the landscape units within the GIS framework
N2O and CH4 fluxes from agriculture and livestock husbandry are calculated from national statistics available at the district level. A rule based approach allows the conversion from the district level to the landscape polygons. Carbon stocks are calculated for the landscape polygons from soil data and regional forest inventories. As a first approach, CO2 fluxes as a result of land use/management change will be estimated by comparison of carbon under similar environmental conditions.

Work package 3: Improvement of IPCC model parameters
A data base containing results of experimental work regarding fluxes of GHG from agriculture and forestry will be compiled. The data base will be analysed in order to develop so-called pedotransfer and ecosystem response functions relating IPCC model parameters to the landscape attributes available in the GIS database.

Work package 4: Land use change modelling
The approach to modelling agricultural land use change will be based on the use of optimisation techniques that simulate the decision-making process of land users given a type of land use. A number of different models will be used based on the approaches developed within the ACCELERATES project financed by the EU.

Work package 5: Construction and evaluation in terms of greenhouse gas fluxes of a range of plausible global change scenarios
The estimates of land use change will be driven by global change scenarios. These scenarios will include estimates of changes in climate and socio-economics. An important benefit of the scenario approach is that these allow direct comparison of changes arising from either climate or socio-economic change. Thus, the relative importance of socio-economic and biophysical drivers can be assessed, and the policy implications can be highlighted.

Interaction between the different partners

The GIS, constructed by the KU Leuven team is a focal point ensuring integration of the results. The FUSAGx and the UCL teams will at first concentrate on the development of spatially variable model parameters reflecting variability in soil and climate conditions. At a later stage the UCL team will provide the land use change model for Belgium. Finally, all teams will be involved in the formulation of scenarios and evaluating the fluxes of greenhouse gases.

Link with international programmes

The approach to land use change modelling will be based on previous projects financed by the EU (IMPEL). The results of a case study for Belgium constructed in current EU financed project (ACCELERATES) will be used to simulate the impacts of global change scenarios. Expansion factors applied to forest inventories are calculated in consultation with European initiatives within the COST E21 project.

Expected results and/or products

- A spatial representation of baseline carbon stocks in soil and biomass for Belgium.
- CO2 fluxes from forest soils under baseline conditions.
- Estimates of uncertainty for N2O emissions from soils.
- Scenarios for future land use change.
- Future stocks and fluxes in response to land use and climate change scenarios.



METAGE consists of three partners:

- The Geography department of the Université catholique de Louvain, who have a strong background in ecological and land use change modelling. The UCL team is involved in several EU projects and the land use change modelling part of the METAGE project will be developed in close collaboration with these EU projects.

- The research focus of the Department of Land Management of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven is on bio-physical land process studies, spatio-temporal land modelling and decision support regarding land use and management. Basic research tools are empirical and process-based models, geomatics and earth observation. Knowledge is developed in numerous projects funded by regional, national and international authorities.

- The group ‘Ecophysiologie des arbres forestiers’ of the Faculté universitaire des Sciences agronomiques de Gembloux has developed from 1987 onwards several field experiments and models related to the physiological responses of forest trees to elevated CO2 concentrations in open top chambers. At present, these experiments focus on root dynamics and forest soil respiration in order to elaborate long term scenarios of plant response to global change.

Contact Information


Bas van Wesemael and Mark Rounsevell
Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)
Départment de géologie et de géographie
3, place Louis Pasteur, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Tel: +32 (0)10 47 20 56; Fax: +32 (0)10 47 28 77

Jos Van Orshoven
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven)
Department Landbeheer
Vital Decosterstraat 102, B-3000 Leuven
Tel: +32 (0)16 32 97 47; Fax: +32 (0)16 32 97 60

Eric Laitat
Faculté universitaire des Sciences agronomiques de Gembloux (FSAGx)
Unité de Biologie végétale
2, passage des Déportés, B-5030 Gembloux
Tel: +32 (0)81 62 24 64; Fax: +32 (0)81 60 07 27

Users Committee

Claude Delbeuck - Ministère de la Région Wallonne - Division Générale des Ressources Naturelles et de l’Environnement
Alain Derouane - Interregional Cel for the Environment
Marie-Rose Van den Hende and Johan Brouwers - Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij
Joseph Delwart - Ministère de la Région Wallonne - Direction Générale de l’Agriculture
Dirk Van Hoye - Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap - Afdeling Bos en Groen

Documentation :

Modelling Ecosystem Trace Gas Emissions : final report    Brussels : Federal Science Policy, 2007 (SP1822)
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