Canada has a quarter of world’s soil carbon. Keeping it in the ground could curb climate change, experts say – by Inayat Singh and Alice Hopton (CBC News Science – November 10, 2021)

Canada has 384 billion tonnes carbon stored in peatland and other soils, new study has found

Canada stores about a quarter of the world’s soil carbon, according to a new study that puts a spotlight on the country’s role in protecting that carbon to help prevent further climate change.

Those carbon-rich soils are found especially in peatland: boggy wetlands in northern Ontario and parts of Manitoba that are filled with accumulated plant matter that’s been collecting over thousands of years.

Soil carbon is deposited into the soil by decaying plant and organic matter, root systems and microorganisms. It’s a valuable resource because it’s a way of keeping that carbon from entering the atmosphere.

If that sequestered carbon is released — through natural events, such as forest fires, or human activities, such as mining, logging and agriculture — it ends up in the atmosphere and exacerbates global warming, scientists say. The study, released Wednesday at the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, suggests protecting this carbon is key to Canada’s climate efforts.

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