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Under the icy north lurks a ‘carbon bomb’: Boston Globe

  • Published on Dec 14 2009 |
  • This article is tagged as: boreal-forest

Excerpt from an article by Beth Daley, published in the Boston Globe on December 13, 2009

OTTAWA - North of Canada’s capital, underneath an endless expanse of spruce, pine, and birch, ticks what some scientists are calling a carbon bomb: Peat.

A thick layer of the black spongy soil, the remnants of ancient forests, wraps the globe’s northern tier. Deeper than 15 feet in places, the peat layer extends over more than 6 million square miles across Russia, Scandinavia, China, Canada, and the United States.

Carbon that those forests absorbed from the air over thousands of years is stored in the peat and suspended in waterlogged bogs or permafrost. When it is disturbed or drained - as is happening in some areas - the peat can start to decompose and dry out, unleashing greenhouse gases. In North America alone, the peat and the trees growing in it hold as much carbon as would be emitted worldwide by 26 years of burning fossil fuels at current rates.

"It’s like a great big stew of carbon percolating away for centuries," said Janet Sumner, executive director of the Wildlands League in Ontario, a conservation group pushing to preserve the northern, or boreal, forests from development. "If we don’t protect the boreal, it will mean more emissions and climate change."

Read the article at the Boston Globe\'s site >