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Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

The LULUCF sector covers emission estimates from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry. This sector differs from the others because both emission and uptake of greenhouse gases occur. The majority relates to gains and losses of carbon in organic matter in living and dead biomass as well as in soils. The inventory methodology for LULUCF is based on a mapping (the land use matrix) of Denmark into the six IPCC land use classes: Forest land, Cropland, Grassland, Wetlands, Settlement and Other Land.

Denmark is a country intensively utilized for agricultural production, where most of the area is affected by agriculture. In 2022 approximately 64 per cent or 2.8 million hectares of the total Danish land area is cultivated as Cropland, and 15 percent is forested. In combination with a high number of cattle and pigs, there is a high environmental pressure on the landscape. To reduce this impact, policy measures have been adopted to protect the environment and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The distribution and registered changes in the different land use categories from 1990 – 2022 is presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Distribution and registered conversions between the different land use categories from 1990 to 2022 in hectares.

1990/2022 Forest land Cropland Grassland Wetlands, periodically water covered Wetlands, flooded Settlement Other land Total, 1990 Proportion 1990 (%)
Forest land 529 715 6 993 2 147 35 270 2 568 0 541 727 12.6
Cropland 109 219 2 747 702 IE 6 628 4 346 48 711 0 2 916 606 67.7
Grassland 8 108 IE 191 306 5 869 2 335 6 295 0 213 912 5.0
Wetlands, periodically water covered 35 0 0 53 666 0 72 0 53 773 1.2
Wetlands, flooded 270 17 0 0 55 326 68 0 55 680 1.3
Settlement 0 0 0 0 0 497 388 0 497 388 11.6
Other land 0 0 0 0 0 0 26 424 26 424 0.6
Sea 0 0 0 0 0 61 0 61 0.0
Total, 2022 647 346 2 754 712 193 453 66 198 62 277 555 162 26 424 4 305 573 100.0
Proportion 2022 (%) 15.0 64.0 4.5 1.5 1.4 12.9 0.6 100.0  

IE: Included elsewhere.

The emissions are the product of this distribution between land use categories and the conversions between them. The land use matrix is updated annually with new information from public registers, maps etc., identifying the annual land use changes taking place from one category to another, caused by e.g. afforestation projects, the need for more urban Settlements and infrastructure or efforts to restore wetlands. Aside from emissions and removals related to the main land use categories, the minor emission sources of harvested wood products and biomass burning (fires) are also included in LULUCF.

In 2022, LULUCF was estimated to be a net sink of emissions at 381 kt CO2 equivalents. Figure 1 presents the historical emissions from LULUCF from 1990 to 2022 from the different land use categories along with the total net emissions. Over the last 5 years (2018-2022), LULUCF has on average been a net source of emissions at 1 029 kt CO2 eqv., which corresponds to close to 85 % reduction from the base year of 1990, but there are large yearly variations in the sector, since it is highly impacted by e.g. varying climatic conditions affecting the biological factors of growth, decomposition, yield etc. Thus, 2015 was the last year that the sector had net removals. For all other years that 2015 and 2022 since 1990, the LULUCF sector has been estimated to be a net source of emissions.

Figure 1. Overview of the land use categories’ contribution to total emissions and sinks in the LULUCF sector in the period 1990-2022. Removals are given as negative figures and emissions are reported as positive figures. Find the background data here.

LULUCF reports on the following greenhouse gases:

  • CO2 is the main source of both emissions and removals, reflecting the impact on the carbon (C) cycle, considering C in living and dead biomass and soil organic carbon (SOC). The LULUCF sector therefore differs from the other sectors in that it contains both emissions and removals of carbon dioxide. The net impact on the cycle is amongst other factors affected by the amount and type of biomass grown within each land use category (forest trees, fruit plantations, cereals, beets, maize, grass, legumes, no biomass etc.), the yield, the soil type, harvest and removal rate of straw from the fields, drainage conditions, manure application and the temperature and precipitation. Drainage of organic soils with ≥ 6% organic carbon decreases the soil organic carbon content, releasing high amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • CH4 emissions occur under anaerobic conditions and are reported from all soils that are wet due to either intended rewetting (wetland restoration) or poor / shallow drainage conditions.
  • N2O is reported from nitrogen (N) mineralization directly associated with loss of organic matter in mineral soils and cultivation of organic soils. According to IPCC guidelines all N2O from agricultural soils are reported in the Agriculture sector, incl. indirect emissions from managed soils.
Figure 2.  Time-series of CO2, CH4 and N2O emissions in the LULUCF sector from 1990-2022, in kt CO2, CH4 and N2O respectively. Removals are given as negative figures and emissions are reported as positive figures. Find the background data here.

Forest land

The total area with forest in 2022 has been estimated to 647 350 hectares covering 15 % of the land area. Of this area a total of 541 727 hectares were planted before 1990. 1990 to 2022 afforestation has taken place on 117 632 hectares and deforestation on 12 013 ha. A large part of the deforestation is conversion of areas with Christmas trees (defined in the matrix as Forest land) into Cropland, as part of the usual crop rotation and removal of forests on sandy heathland converting them into Grassland.

The Danish forests have been estimated to be a net sink of 3 352 kt CO2 eqv. in 2022. The forests have been a sink of around 3 000 kt CO2 eqv. annually in the last 10 years. The emission inventory for Forest land and harvested wood products is conducted by the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), at University of Copenhagen. The methodology and detailed information on the emissions from these sources are reported in the National Forest Inventories (opens new window).

Cropland and Grassland

Cropland is defined as land intensively utilized for agricultural purposes and includes arable and tillage land, and agroforestry systems, where vegetation falls below the thresholds used for the forestland category. Grass which is part of a frequent agricultural rotation cycle is included in the Cropland category, whereas the Grassland category includes heath, rangelands and grazing land that is outside rotation and therefore not considered Cropland. In total the area with Cropland and Grassland covers 64 % of the Danish territory, with approximately 2.8 million and 193 000 hectares respectively.

Cropland is ranging from being a net source of 4 867 kt CO2 eqv. in 1990 to a net source of 575 kt CO2 eqv. in 2022, corresponding to a 88 % fall in emissions.The major reason for the decrease in emissions is an increased input of organic matter to the mineral soils (e.g. straw and increased area with catch crops) and a reduction of the area cultivated on organic soils. Grassland emissions have decreased since 1990 and in 2022 contribute with emissions of 1853 kt CO2 eqv. compared to 2 201 kt CO2 eqv. in 1990 – a fall of 16 % over the period.

Restoration of Wetlands on organic soils help to decrease the emissions, but cultivation and drainage of organic soils within Cropland and Grassland continues to be the main source of emissions in the sector, amounting to 3 033 kt CO2 eqv. in 2022, see Figure 3. However, the emissions have decreased significantly over time, partly due to rewetting of previously drained soils, but also due to the cultivated soils losing carbon resulting in lower estimated emissions.

Figure 3. Emissions from organic soils on Cropland and Grassland from 1990 to 2022, presented as stacked emissions in kt CO2 equivalents. Find the background data here.


Wetlands is sub-divided into flooded wetland (permanently water covered) and periodically water covered wetland. Periodically water covered area includes peat excavation areas on organic soils, the drainage of which was affecting around 800 hectares in 2022.

The emission from Wetlands have decreased over the years due to a decrease in peat extraction activities in Denmark. Restoration of former wetlands primarily on Cropland and Grassland increase CH4 emissions from Wetlands. In 2022, the emissions from Wetlands were 40 kt CO2 eqv., similar to 1990 emissions of 100 kt CO2 eqv.


Settlements cover a slightly increasing area according to the land use matrix, in 2022 estimated at 12.9 % of the Danish area, at 555 162 hectares. The land use category is a relatively small source of emissions, which primarily stem from conversions of Cropland and Grassland to Settlements and the associated loss of living biomass and carbon stock in the soil. The emissions in 1990 were estimated at 413 kt CO2 eqv., in 2022 reduced to 330 kt CO2 eqv.

Other land

Other land is defined as land with little or no vegetation and consequently no or very limited carbon stocks. The land use type includes beaches and sand dunes and a very small insignificant area with rocks and cliffs, in total estimated to 26 424 hectares. As the area is kept constant in the land use matrix over the entire period of the inventory, no land use changes and hence no emissions are reported.

Emissions from biomass burning (fires) in Denmark are negligible, around or below 1 kt CO2 eqv. for the entire period of the inventory in the period 1990-2022.


Some background information can be found here:

GHG emissions (data from the NIR report).