Navigation Links
Drying intensifying wildfires, carbon release ninefold, study finds
Date:11/1/2011

Drying of northern wetlands has led to much more severe peatland wildfires and nine times as much carbon released into the atmosphere, according to new research led by a University of Guelph professor.

The study, published today in Nature Communications, is the first to investigate the effect of drainage on carbon accumulation in northern peatlands and the vulnerability of that carbon to burning.

"Russia, Indonesia and Canada all have abundant peatlands, but they also have been hotspots for intense peat fires in the past decade," said Guelph professor Merritt Turetsky, who worked on the study with William Donahue of the Water Matters Society of Alberta and Brian Benscoter from Florida Atlantic University.

In pristine states, peatlands often resist fire because of their wet soils. "Our study shows that when disturbance lowers the water table, that resistance disappears and peat becomes very flammable and vulnerable to deep burning," she said.

Recently, destructive peat fires plagued the Moscow region. In the late 1990s, severe Indonesian fires in drained peatlands released carbon equivalent to 40 per cent of annual global fossil fuel emissions.

"Our results demonstrate the importance of cumulative impacts," Turetsky said.

Peatlands store vast amounts of carbon by pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. For millennia, they've accumulated plant debris the remains of wood, moss, and other plants and locked it up in layers of saturated peat more than five metres deep in places.

Northern peat covers large swaths of the landscape. Because about half of that peat consists of carbon, it is a globally important carbon pool.

But peatlands are also carbon sources, as this same debris fuels wildfires. "While fire is a widely recognized disturbance in upland forests, the impacts of fire on peatlands and their carbon storage have been largely overlooked," said Benscoter.

The majority of the world's peatlands are located in northern regions, and Canada is home to some of the largest on the planet.

"The extensive deposits of peat in Canada are an important natural resource, but one that is being disturbed more often, not only by wildfire but also by human activities," Turetsky said. Previous studies have documented the effects of land use practices and global warming on the ecology of peatlands. "But we wanted to examine how decades of lowered water table in peatlands might affect wildfire behaviour, and that required a very large experiment."

To determine those effects, the researchers used a unique outdoor laboratory. A large section of a boreal fen near Slave Lake, Alta., had been drained over 20 years ago in a wetland drainage project. A portion of the fen including drained and pristine plots burned in a wildfire in 2001 allowed for a natural experiment.

Earlier research had documented increases in tree growth and carbon storage after drainage. "But nobody had looked at the impacts of dewatering on fire intensity and associated carbon gains or losses," Donohue said.

The results were surprising, he said. Long-term drainage actually increased tree productivity and carbon storage in the fen soils. But the lower water table also changed wildfire conditions, and losses of soil carbon to burning in the drained areas increased ninefold.

"Even though the organic matter accumulation doubled over two decades after drainage, severe burning triggered the complete loss of this newly stored carbon, plus a further 450 years' worth of peat accumulation," Donahue said.

"Currently, peatlands are considered important global stores for carbon. But we've shown that human disturbance or climate-induced drying can switch peatlands from sinks to potentially huge sources of carbon, with losses associated with severe burning far outweighing long-term rates of sequestration."


'/>"/>
Contact: Prof. Merritt Turetsky, University of Guelph
mrt@uoguelph.ca
519-824-4120 x56166
University of Guelph
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Land evapotranspiration taking unexpected turn: huge parts of world are drying up
2. Cutting carbon dioxide helps prevent drying
3. Carbon nanostructures form the future of electronics and optoelectronics
4. Growth in the global carbon budget
5. Carbon sinks: Issues, markets, policy
6. Carbon dioxide scrubber captures greenhouse gases
7. UNC study on properties of carbon nanotubes, water could have wide-ranging implications
8. Study: Tropical wetlands hold more carbon than temperate marshes
9. Diatom genome helps explain success in trapping excess carbon in oceans
10. Earthworm activity can alter forests carbon-carrying capabilities
11. Global warming predicted to hasten carbon release from peat bogs
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Drying intensifying wildfires, carbon release ninefold, study finds
(Date:12/16/2016)... DUBLIN , Dec 16, 2016 Research ... Access System Market - Global Forecast to 2021" report to ... ... projected to grow at a CAGR of 14.06% from 2016 to ... 2016, and is projected to reach 854.8 Million by 2021. The ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... and BADEN-BADEN, Germany , December 15, 2016 ... financial services provider, today announced an agreement with NuData Security, ... to join forces. The partnership will enable clients to focus ... compliance with local data protection regulation. ... In order to provide a ...
(Date:12/15/2016)... DUBLIN , Dec 15, 2016 ... Research and Markets has announced ... to their offering. The report forecasts the global military ... 2016-2020. The report has been prepared based on an ... market landscape and its growth prospects over the coming years. The report ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/23/2017)... , Jan. 23, 2017  Alkahest Inc. ... treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and other age-related conditions, ... the company as Chief Medical Officer. In this ... clinical development activities at Alkahest and serve on ... most recently served as Executive Director at Dynavax, ...
(Date:1/23/2017)... ... January 23, 2017 , ... CallTower is proud to announce ... of the Year Award winner for 2017. , For three consecutive years, CallTower ... In 2016, CallTower was awarded with the hosted VoIP Excellence award and in 2015, ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... ... January 20, 2017 , ... Nipro Corporation (Osaka, Japan) and Transonic Systems Inc. ... will receive exclusive marketing and sales rights for all non-OEM Transonic products in Japan. ... in Japan, the new Nipro - Transonic JV is a natural next step to ...
(Date:1/21/2017)... 2017 Interpace Diagnostics Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... clinically useful molecular diagnostic tests and pathology services, ... securities purchase agreement with three  institutional investors to ... stock in a registered direct offering.  In a ... sell to the same investors warrants to purchase ...
Breaking Biology Technology: