The water footprint of peat from tropical and boreal locations

P. W. Gerbens-Leenes, Anne Jelle Schilstra

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review


Peat, when used for energy or for horticulture, is a form of biomass that develops in mires or peatlands over a period of hundreds of years. Recent studies have shown the large water footprints of bioenergy and hydropower. The concept of the water footprint (WF) uses a life cycle approach by taking water use in production chains into account and in this way distinguishes between direct and indirect water use. This study adopts the WF life cycle approach for the assessment of indirect water use for peat from tropical and boreal climates. In this way, it includes the WF related to the formation of peat hundreds of years ago. The blue WFs are determined by evaporation on the one hand and peat growth rates on the other. The study shows that WFs of peat are comparable to WFs (m3 per GJ) of presently available bioenergy. Counterintuitively, the indirect blue WFs are smallest for peat from tropical locations in Indonesia, where evaporation rates are high, and largest for locations in the boreal areas with relatively small evaporation rates. For Indonesia, the blue WF was 8 m3 per kg dry mass; for boreal areas, blue WFs ranged between 11 (western Canada) and 15 m3 per kg dry mass. In the boreal areas, both evaporation and growth rates are smaller than in tropical areas, but peat growth is relatively smaller than evaporation rates resulting in relatively large blue WFs. The WF of total annual peat production lies between 122 and 231 Gm3 which has been established over hundreds of years. When compared to the annual blue WF of humanity of 1025 Gm3 per year, the contribution of the WF of peat is small.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBook of Abstracts Symposium International Peatlands Society 50 years
EditorsJan Van den Akker
PublisherInternational Peatlands Society
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventConference International Peatlands Society: 50 years - Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 10-Sep-201813-Sep-2018


ConferenceConference International Peatlands Society

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