Peatlands release more methane when disturbed by roads

phys.org | 6/19/2019 | Staff
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Roads built through acidic wetlands may make greenhouse gas emissions from the wetlands spike by damming natural water flow, according to a new study.

As plants die in bogs or fens—two types of wetlands—they sink into an acidic and low-oxygen environment where microorganisms can't break them down as quickly as they would in other habitats. Over time, partially decomposed plants accumulate and create peat, a brown deposit that looks like soil. Its high carbon content allows it to burn.

Peat - Wetlands - Peatlands - Store - Carbon

Peat wetlands, also known as peatlands, store twice as much carbon as forests despite covering less than 3 percent of land. They are most common across the northern reaches of North America and Europe, where workers remove bricks of muddy peat for use as fertilizer or some countries burn it as fuel to heat homes and businesses.

Now, new research in AGU's Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences suggests building roads across these areas for transport and to extract natural resources may boost emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, up to 49 times the natural level. Methane in the atmosphere absorbs heat more effectively than carbon dioxide, meaning it poses a greater threat for global climate change.

Bogs - Fens - Types - Wetlands - Percent

Bogs and fens are more acidic than other types of wetlands and naturally provide around 7 percent of global methane emissions. The main difference between the two peat habitats is how they receive water. Streams flow freely through fens, while bogs depend on rainfall to replenish water.

When microbes slowly break down plants in these areas under waterlogged conditions, they release methane as a byproduct. The gas then either remains in the peat or diffuses into the atmosphere. Man-made structures, such as roads, can disrupt these natural processes and cause peatlands to emit more methane, according to the new study.

People - Roads - Peatlands

"When people construct these roads, they are impacting the peatlands...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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