Drier peatlands “add to warming”

Climate modelling indicates that warmer temperatures in the years ahead will dry up peatlands, release more carbon dioxide into the world’s atmosphere and aggravate global warming, a Japanese study published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience has found.


In their computer models, the Japanese scientists found that peatlands — concentrated in high-latitude areas such as Canada, Russia and Alaska – will become increasingly drier as global temperatures increase and more carbon dioxide (CO2) is released.

Peat, which covers about 2% of global land mass, is the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation in very wet places. Because of the low rates of carbon breakdown in cold, waterlogged soils, peatlands store large amounts of carbon.

A warming of 4º Celsius causes a 40% carbon loss from shallow peat and 86% carbon loss from deep peat. “This will cause carbon loss from the soil, which means an increase in carbon-dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, which will further worsen global warming,” said Takeshi Ise of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.


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