Peatlands VS Climate Crisis
When the climate crisis comes into the conversation, one of the main topics rotates around greenhouse gases (GHG) and peatlands play an essential role in terms of uptake and release of them. Peatlands are the largest terrestrial carbon store. In perfect conditions, peatlands can store more carbon than all the forests on the globe, even though they take 1/10 of the space. On the other hand, damaged peatlands have a great impact on emissions. Worldwide, they emit 10% of greenhouse gases of the land-use sector.
Bog vegetation captures CO2 and the carbon is stored in the soil thanks to the high quantity of water that slows down the process of decomposition. This decomposition also produces methane. The life-span of methane in the atmosphere is shorter than CO2: this means that on a short period, peatlands are emitting methane, a greenhouse gas, but over a long time, the uptake of CO2 is more relevant and peatlands are overall considered valuable net coolers of the atmosphere.
Climate change is affecting peatlands and their capability of being carbon sinks, making the situation even worse. Climate change can:
- Warms up the soil. Warmer soil speeds up the release of carbon;
- Change the hydrology of the area, modifying the process of the composition and peatland vulnerable of wildfire;
- Change in the flora composition;
Rewetting and restoring peatlands reduces the possibility for them to lose carbon and emit GHG.
Experimental plots to examine new ways to encourage peat moss to grow