Warmer Climate to Dry Up Peatlands

Warmer climate to dry up peatlands: study
Mon Oct 13, 2008 11:00am EDT 

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Warmer temperatures in the years ahead will dry up peatlands,
release more carbon dioxide into the world’s atmosphere and aggravate global
warming, a study in Japan has found.

Peat is the accumulation of partially decayed vegetation in very wet places and it
covers about two percent of global land mass. Peatlands store large amounts of
carbon owing to the low rates of carbon breakdown in cold, waterlogged soils.

Using computer modeling, scientists in Japan found that peatlands — concentrated in
high latitude places like Canada, Russia and Alaska — look set to get dryer with
increasingly warmer global temperatures.

A warming of four degrees Celsius causes a 40 percent carbon loss from shallow peat
and 86 percent carbon loss from deep peat, according to the study, published in the
latest issue of Nature Geoscience.

“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 from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology.

“So we have to do something to mitigate global warming,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Global warming is caused by an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases such as
water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and ozone. The increase in carbon dioxide is
mostly blamed on human activities such as burning of coal, oil and gas.

(Reporting by Tan Ee Lyn; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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