Can-Peat: Canada’s peatlands as nature-based solutions to climate change

The Can-Peat project will quantify the potential of peatland management in Canada to contribute to climate change mitigation as a nature-based solution. Peatlands cover over 12% of Canada’s land area and store an estimated 150-160 Gt of carbon in their soils. This makes Canadians stewards of ~25% of the world’s peatland C, the protection of which has been recognized internationally, through the UN Environment Program’s Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), as key to climate change mitigation. Recent work on natural climate solutions in Canada indicates that peatland management could provide an average annual GHG emission reduction of ~10 Mt CO2e in the year 2030. However, uncertainty in this estimate is high (std. dev. ~8 Mt CO2e) due to knowledge gaps on the size of the peat C stock, its vulnerability to disturbances, and the response of peatland GHG exchange to management actions. Led by internationally-recognized leaders in peatland science, the objective of this project is to bring together Canadian peatland experts to reduce uncertainty in GHG emission reductions from peatland management actions and evaluate the costs and benefits of policy instruments to support their implementation.

The Climate Action Awareness Fund shall enable the recipient to leverage decades of world class Canadian research on peatland carbon and GHG cycling to quantify the potential of peatland management to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions. This goal will be achieved by creating an open access database of peatland distribution, condition and vulnerability, innovative modelling response to disturbance, and developing decision-support tools for climate friendly management. Can-Peat will also train the next generation of peatland scientists, managers, and policymakers.

Canada is home to over 25% of the world’s peatland area, representing a crucial soil carbon stock. The Can-Peat project will enable us to bring together key partners across the country and build on decades of world class peatland research to inform how to best protect and manage these ecosystems in a changing climate.

Maria Strack

Waterloo Climate Institute member contributions

Maria Strack is the principal investigator with Kelsey Leonard and Rich Petrone acting as co-investigators. These three members are part of a wider team spearheading this important work thanks to Environment and Climate Change Canada's Climate Action and Awareness Fund (CAAF). This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada. 

Maria Strack

Maria Strack

Professor, Geography and Environmental Management; Canada Research Chair

Maria Strack's research interests include the interactions between ecology, hydrology, biogeochemistry and soil properties in wetland ecosystems, peatland greenhouse gas fluxes in both natural and disturbed ecosystem, and peatland methane dynamics including both fluxes and subsurface storage.

Kelsey Leonard
Richard Petrone.

UWaterloo co-investigators

Roy Brouwer

Roy Brouwer is Executive Director of the University of Waterloo’s Water Institute and Professor in the Department of Economics. He holds the University Chair in Water Resource Economics and is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the Elsevier journal with the same name. His work is highly interdisciplinary. He is cross-appointed in the University of Waterloo’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES), the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE), Geography and Environmental Management (GEM) and the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability (SERS). Learn more about his research on his Water Economics Research Group (WEGRG) website

Fereidoun Rezenezhad

Fereidoun Rezanezhad is a Research Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at University of Waterloo. His research broadly focuses on soil-water-atmosphere interactions and the effects of climate change and management practices on carbon and nutrient biogeochemistry in natural and disturbed ecosystems. Rezanezhad has extensive field experience in terrestrial and wetland ecosystems, specifically with soil and water quality, and nutrient and greenhouse gas flux monitoring. His current research targets cold regions Critical Zone science with a particular focus on hydro(bio)geochemical soil processes in cold-temperate to subarctic and permafrost regions.

Philippe van Cappellen

Philippe van Cappellen joined the University of Waterloo as the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology in 2011. His research combines laboratory studies with field observations and theoretical developments to predictively understand and model the processes that regulate water geochemistry, carbon and nutrient cycling, microbial activity, and mineral transformations in agricultural and urban landscapes, lentic and lotic systems, and coastal marine environments. Van Cappellen is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Geochemical Society, European Association of Geochemistry, and American Geophysical Union. In 2022, he received the J. Tuzo Wilson Medal of the Canadian Geophysical Union.

Co-investigators from Canadian universities

  • Carleton University: Elyn Humphreys
  • Memorial University: Jianghua Wu
  • UQAM: Michelle Garneau
  • UMontreal: Oliver Sonnentag
  • McGill: Mary Kang
  • UAlberta: David Olefeldt

Project partners

  • ECCC – Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate
  • ECCC – Pollutant Inventories and Reporting
  • NRCan – Canadian Forest Service
  • Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks
  • Quebec Ministère de l’environnement et de la lutte contre les changement climatique
  • Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development
  • Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Government of the Northwest Territories
  • Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute
  • Ducks Unlimited Canada
  • Nature United
  • Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association
  • Viresco Solutions
  • Dené Tha First Nation