Boreal Climate change Peatlands

The essential carbon service provided by northern peatlands

Harris, L.I., Richardson, K., Bona, K.A., Davidson, S., Finkelstein, S., Garneau, M., McLaughlin, J., Nwaishi, F., Olefeldt, D., Packalen, M., Roulet, N., Southee, M.F., Strack, M., Webster, K.L., Wilkinson, S.L, and Ray, J.C.


Abstract

Northern peatlands have cooled the global climate by accumulating large quantities of soil carbon (C) over thousands of years. Maintaining the C sink function of these peatlands and their immense long-term soil C stores is critical for achieving net-zero global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050 to mitigate climate warming. One-quarter of the world’s northern peatlands are in Canada, with these mostly intact ecosystems providing a global C service that is increasingly recognized as a critical part of nature-based solutions to combat climate change. However, land-use change and other disturbances threaten these globally important stores of “irrecoverable C” (that is, soil C lost to disturbance that will take centuries to recover). Inadequate policy safeguards to avoid conversion and degradation, and the limited quantification and reporting of peatland greenhouse-gas emissions and removals, increase the vulnerability of these peatlands. Targeted policies from local to global scales will be needed for improved decision making and incentivizing long-term C management of northern peatlands.

Key points

Recommended citation

Harris, L.I., Richardson, K., Bona, K.A., Davidson, S., Finkelstein, S., Garneau, M., McLaughlin, J., Nwaishi, F., Olefeldt, D., Packalen, M., Roulet, N., Southee, M.F., Strack, M., Webster, K.L., Wilkinson, S.L, and Ray, J.C. (2021). The essential carbon service provided by northern peatlands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. https://doi.org/10.1002/fee.2437

Lorna Harris

Lorna Harris

Director of Forests, Peatlands and Climate Change Program

Justina Ray

Justina Ray

President & Senior Scientist

Meg Southee

Meg Southee

Lead Geospatial Analyst/Programmer

Northern Peatlands in Canada

Northern Peatlands in Canada

This story map will take you on a journey through the northern peatlands of Canada and explain why they are so important for both climate and biodiversity.

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