What are Peatlands?

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A new study finds that canals used to drain soggy peatlands in Southeast Asia are likely hotspots for greenhouse gas emissions.

About Peatlands

  • Peatlands are terrestrial wetland ecosystems in which waterlogged conditions prevent plant material from fully decomposing. 
  • Consequently, the production of organic matter exceeds its decomposition, which results in a net accumulation of peat.
  • Peatlands occur in every climatic zone and continent and cover 4.23 million km2, which corresponds to 2.84% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface.
  • The majority of the world’s peatlands occur in boreal and temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, especially, Europe, North America, and Russia, where they have formed under high precipitation-low temperature climatic regimes.
  • Peatlands include landscapes that are still actively accumulating peat, others that are no longer accumulating and do not support the principal peat forming plants, and peatlands used for economic uses such as agriculture, forestry, and excavation for energy and heat generation, horticulture, and other uses. 
  • About 84% of the world’s peatlands are considered to be in natural, or near-natural state. 
  • Drained peatlands make up about 16% of the world’s peatlands, or 0.5% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface. 
  • Due to the process of peat accumulation, peatlands are carbon rich ecosystems. Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store. They store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. 
  • Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for almost 5% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. 

Q1) What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect is the process through which heat is trapped near Earth's surface by substances known as greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases consist of carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and water vapor.

Source: Canals used to drain peatlands are underappreciated hotspots for carbon emissions, new study finds