Boreal peat sequesters a lot of carbon, keeping it from contributing to global warming. However, the common belief is that peat will release this huge amount of carbon as current climate warming continues, considerably worsening the situation. But according to a recent press release from the University of South Carolina, boreal peat may be holding onto its carbon after all.
A core sample from Canadian peat representing 7,500 years of climate was used for the analysis. The time period included both the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Holocene Thermal Maximum, snapshots in time where the global temperature was 2 degrees Celsius greater than normal, similar to emerging climate change conditions today. The sample showed a significant increase in carbon release during dry spells or conditions where the peat had longer exposure to oxygen, but no significant increase in carbon release occurred under higher than normal temperatures.
Researchers felt it was not yet time to declare boreal peat’s carbon store as harmless to the currently warming environment, however, as significantly drier or more oxygenated conditions could emerge that would cause a large carbon release.