Before scientists come up with a reliable solution to solve the problems created by climate change triggered by the CO2 emissions we produce, we must depend on natural carbon sink regions such as forests, rivers, and oceans to suck the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, unfortunately, these ecosystems are deteriorating more and more, and, now, a substantial natural carbon sink might turn into a major carbon source, accelerating global warming.
Peatlands are among the most effective natural carbon sink on the planet, which when undisturbed they hold more carbon dioxide than any other type of vegetation on Earth. However, when they are altered, especially by deforestation, peatlands lose their property to capture CO2, and they start releasing it.
“Global peatlands cover only about 3 percent of the global land area but hold around 30 percent of the earth’s soil organic carbon. Peatlands act like a ‘terrestrial ocean’ because of their sequestering carbon, but will this massive amount of peat carbon be released under a warmer climate, causing further warming?” asks Qianlai Zhuang from the Purdue University.
Huge Natural Carbon Sink To Turn Into A Major Carbon Source
Qianlai Zhuang cooperated with Sirui Wang, a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue, and both concluded that the Peruvian Amazon’s peatland, a huge natural carbon sink, might lose up to 500 million tons of carbon by the end of this century, which means about 5% of the annual fossil fuel carbon emissions, globally.
Also, according to all scientific estimates, South America would become hotter and wetter by the end of the century. On the other hand, the peatland in this region will follow the other natural carbon sink regions across Canada, Russia, and Southeast Asia, and will eventually turn into a major carbon source.
“If the area we looked at could represent the whole Amazonia or tropical peatlands, the loss of peat carbon to the atmosphere under future climate scenarios should be of great concern to our society. Agricultural intensification and increasing land-use disturbances, such as forest fires, threaten the persistence of peat carbon stocks. These peatland ecosystems may turn into carbon sources instead of sinks unless necessary actions are taken,” concluded Qianlai Zhuang.
With over seven years of experience in online journalism, Vadim is passionate about everything related to science and the environment. For us, he will thus cover climate, environment, and science news, among others.