The Importance of Canadian Peatlands

Peatlands are wetland ecosystems that have accumulated an organic layer at least 40 cm thick in their soils. This organic matter accumulates due to slow decomposition of relatively decay-resistant litter in water-saturated, anoxic soils, often under cool temperatures when occurring at high latitudes. These anoxic conditions also lead to the production of the greenhouse gas methane, with northern peatlands representing up to 10% of global methane emissions. Although emissions of another important greenhouse, nitrous oxide, are generally low, particularly in nutrient-poor sites, emissions may increase with climate change, especially as permafrost thaws in peatlands. The organic matter stored in peatlands represents a large stock of soil carbon that has been slowly accumulating over millennia, resulting in atmospheric cooling even once methane emissions are accounted for.

Canada has over 1.13 million km2 of peatland area, accounting for approximately 12% of its land area and representing a quarter of all global peatlands. Peatlands are a critical part of the Canadian landscape and represent a substantial portion of the country’s nature-based carbon stocks. The goal of Can-Peat is to quantify the potential for peatland management in Canada to contribute to nature-based solutions to climate change.

Can-Peat Objectives

Over the next five years, Can-Peat will quantify the potential of peatland management in Canada to contribute to climate change mitigation. The research supports Canada's commitment to reach net-zero emissions economy by 2050. Specific objectives are to: 

  1. Create a Canadian peatland research network   
  1. Compile a database on Canadian peatland carbon stocks, greenhouse gas exchange, and supporting data  
  1. Advance models of peatland carbon cycling from site to national scale and use these models to evaluate future peatland greenhouse gas uptake or emission under changing climate and disturbance regimes 
  1. Investigate mechanisms to implement peatland nature-based solutions in Canada and develop a decision-support framework for peatland management 
  1. Communicate findings to partners and provide the tools needed for climate-friendly peatland management and greenhouse gas emission reporting related to these activities. 

Can-Peat: Canada's peatlands as nature-based climate solutions is funded through the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. Administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada, $15.8 million is being allocating to six University of Waterloo research projects to identify solutions to environmental challenges. Nationally the CAAF funding was part of a $58 million announcement by Minister Guilbeault for research projects that will advance science and technology to combat climate change.

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