The impact of rice production on the environment is complex, having both positive and negative implications. The negative environmental impacts of rice production, namely methane emissions, are well documented and have been the subject of significant international research and initiatives. As rice is a vital staple crop, the challenge is to improve the sustainability of global production. Recent research has pointed to the potential to reduce methane emissions by over 40% through mid-season drainage and intermittent irrigation strategies.
Rice production also makes an important positive contribution to the environment through the sequestration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the maintenance of vulnerable ecosystems, and the regulation of water management. In European rice-growing regions, for example, rice production constitutes an integral element in the delicate balancing of water resources. Paddy fields act as deep sub-surface aquifers (important storage points that are critical to long-term sustainable water use), providing a natural defence against flooding during periods of high precipitation and prevent the encroachment of sea water and salinization. In addition, wildlife experts such as the RSPB have stressed the essential role of European rice production in ensuring the survival of wetland wildlife.