Peatlands Keep a Lot of Carbon out of Earth’s Atmosphere, but That Could End with Warming and Development

But that might not be true for much longer. Warming temperatures and human actions, such as draining bogs and converting them for agriculture, threaten to turn the world’s peatlands from carbon reservoirs to carbon sources.

In a newly published study, our multidisciplinary team of 70 scientists from around the world analyzed existing research and surveyed 44 leading experts to identify factors that could change peatlands’ carbon balance now and in the future. We found that permafrost degradation, warming temperatures, rising sea levels and drought are causing many peatlands around the world to lose some of their stored carbon. This is in addition to rapid degradation caused by human activity. And unless steps are taken to protect peatlands, carbon loss could accelerate.