Guest “For peat’s sake!” by David Middleton
Are new carbon sinks appearing in the Arctic?
Global warming can result in the spread of peatland vegetation in the Arctic. An international research group has discovered signs of ‘proto-peat’, which may be the beginning of new peatlands.
In 2018, an international research group bored for soil samples in three sites around the Isfjorden fjord in Svalbard, which is part of Norway. The same phenomenon was seen each boring site: mineral soil covered by a thin layer of organic matter. In other words, this layer contains a lot of carbon extracted from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
The research group headed by researcher Minna Väliranta from the University of Helsinki has given the name ‘proto-peat’ to such organic soil accumulations, which are composed mostly of moss formed in increasingly warm arctic climate conditions.
“If this process that generates proto-peat occurs extensively, an unexpected carbon reservoir, or a plant community that mitigates climate change, may be in the process of establishing itself in the north. This reservoir has not been included in the modelling of ecosystems and the atmosphere, as it has traditionally been thought that no new peatlands are formed,” Väliranta notes.
Juselius, T., Ravolainen, V., Zhang, H. et al. Newly initiated carbon stock, organic soil accumulation patterns and main driving factors in the High Arctic Svalbard, Norway. Sci Rep 12, 4679 (2022).University of Helsinki
It’s almost as if Earth knows what to do with CO2… Just like plastic in this classic George Carlin sketch: