University of Exeter: Peatlands can help fix our climate

Experts from a project called C-PEAT (Carbon in Peat on EArth Through time), part of PAGES and Future Earth, will have an exhibit at the COP26 summit in Glasgow on Friday (5 November).

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is a major part of plans to limit global warming, with many technological solutions currently being developed.

But the exhibit in the Global Peatland Pavilion – entitled “Getting to know peatlands, the largest natural land carbon stores on Earth” – will examine peatlands as nature-based solutions.

“Using ecosystems to capture carbon tends to be more economically and energetically viable compared to technological methods for CO2 removal,” said Professor Angela Gallego-Sala, of the Global Systems Institute at the University of Exeter.

“The most widely known of these solutions are afforestation and reforestation.

“In addition, peatland rewetting is becoming better recognised as an important nature-based solution.”

Peatlands are a type of wetland found in almost every country on Earth, and – despite covering just 3% of the global land surface – they contain more carbon than all the world’s forests.

A study published last year by a team including Professor Gallego-Sala warned that peatlands have already shifted from an overall “sink” (absorbing carbon) to a source and that they have the potential to continue to release vast quantities of carbon into the atmosphere this century, primarily due to human impacts.

The C-PEAT exhibit will highlight the importance of peatland management and restoration for meeting net zero targets.

C-PEAT experts will be at the exhibit ready to explain more about peatlands all over the world and how they are a vital part of our response to climate change.

Professor Julie Loisel, of Texas A&M University, said: “Peatlands have been cooling the global climate for thousands of years by slowly accumulating thick layers of organic soil.

“Ongoing climate and land-use changes are not only threatening the capacity of these ecosystems to keep doing this job; these changes can also compromise the large stores of carbon that has taken thousands of years to accumulate.

“Despite their importance in the carbon cycle and climate system, peatlands are only minimally protected from a climate policy perspective.

“We believe this situation is poised to change, with organisations setting ambitious net-zero targets to meet the 1.5C goal; natural carbon sinks such as peatlands should play an increasingly important role towards meeting those targets.

“Come talk with us, and we’ll discuss potential solutions to this wicked problem!”

The University of Exeter has launched a ‘Green Futures’ campaign and website to drive action on the environment and climate emergency. To find out more please visit https://greenfutures.exeter.ac.uk

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