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Background

WeizenernteThe province Tyumen in Western Siberia is the heart of Russia’s flourishing gas and oil production. At the same time the region is of global significance in terms of carbon sequestration, agricultural production and biodiversity preservation. The peatlands, forests and steppe soils of Western Siberia are one of the most important carbon sinks worldwide. Particularly the extensive peatlands of Western Siberia cover 600,000 km² and store almost about quarter of all terrestrial carbon fixed since the last ice age. These carbon stocks are, if deteriorated, an important source of radiative forcing even in comparison to anthropogenic emissions. This situation is aggravated by recent and future developments in agricultural land use in the southern part of Western Siberia. The increase of drought risk in the steppe zone of northern Kazakhstan and southern Siberia will trigger a northward shift of the West-Siberian Grain Belt into the forest steppe and Pre-Taiga zone. In conjunction with climate change, agricultural expansion and intensification in these regions, rich in extensive and so far mostly unspoiled mire ecosystems, will increase the threat of large-scale release of GHGs from reclaimed peat areas.
SchwarzerdeAgricultural expansion is currently also accelerated by new economical and technological developments such as the production of biofuels causing a world-wide increasing demand for arable land. In a recent study of the German Advisory Council on Global Change, southern Western Siberia has been identified as a region with high potential for future bioenergy production. For the future, a rapid and massive expansion of this economic branch must be expected with negative impact on other ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, water availability and quality, food production and biodiversity. Currently, – like in other parts of the world – there are no concepts and strategies in Western Siberia to steer and mitigate these fundamental changes in land use as triggered by climate change and new socioeconomical developments. Besides climate change, one main driver for future agricultural expansion is the low efficiency of current agricultural land management resulting in low yields and a degradation of soil fertility. There are considerable deficits in current farming practice in terms of tillage, crop rotation, organic fertilization and the integration of animal deposals into farming systems. Improved management at farm level could not only reduce soil degradation and other environmental burdens but could also lower the need for the reclamation of new agricultural land in areas with high potential for GHG emissions.


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