Agricultural research looks at dugouts as absorbing carbon dioxide

By Dale Johnson Posted: March 11, 2017 8:00 a.m.

Dr. Kerri Finlay is part of a team of researchers in the biology department trying to find out if dugouts take in carbon dioxide.
Dr. Kerri Finlay is part of a team of researchers in the biology department trying to find out if dugouts take in carbon dioxide. Photo by U of R Photography

Three researchers at the University of Regina have been awarded a provincial research grant to study the role of agricultural dugouts in greenhouse gas capture.

Dr. Kerri Finlay, Dr. Peter Leavitt, Dr. Gavin Simpson of the biology department, along with Dr. Helen Baulch of the University of Saskatchewan, were recently awarded $255,030 from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture's Agriculture Development Fund.

“We are hoping to provide guidelines for dugout management to maximize CO2 uptake. If successful, this would offer a very low-cost option for carbon offsets to farmers, as they already have the dugout infrastructure in place,” Finlay says.

The funds will be used primarily to hire students, travel, collect, and analyze samples from dugouts across southern Saskatchewan.

Dugouts provide invaluable ecosystem services on agricultural lands including water for livestock, habitat for natural flora and fauna, and flood abatement. They may also provide a critical offset of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural practices.

This new research is an application of previous work done at the U of R.

In their earlier work, they found that lakes in southern Saskatchewan are absorbing more carbon dioxide as a result of global warming. This is contrary to previous research that suggested global warming is increasing CO2 emissions from lakes.

Now they will focus their research on dugouts.

“In this research we want to pursue this further by examining whether, and if so how much, CO2 is coming into farm dugouts. We further want to investigate whether this CO2 is being buried in the sediments and might thus be used as carbon offsets for agricultural emissions. Additionally, we will be measuring the other, more potent greenhouse gases, like methane and NO2, as they might completely negate the CO2 uptake,” explains Finlay.

Related story:

Global warming means prairie lakes absorb carbon dioxide