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Protecting peatlands pivotal for climate and biodiversity goals, scientists say

Originally published in Canada’s National Observer

December 2, 2022

As the United Nations biodiversity conference draws near, dozens of scientists from 13 countries are calling for protection of the world’s waterlogged, carbon-rich peatlands, a quarter of which exist within Canada’s borders and are threatened by development.

As the United Nations biodiversity conference draws near, dozens of scientists from 13 countries are calling for protection of the world’s waterlogged, carbon-rich peatlands, a quarter of which exist within Canada’s borders and are threatened by development.

Canada’s peatlands store about 150 billion tonnes of carbon, the most common heat-trapping element in the atmosphere responsible for global warming. If we were to lose just one per cent of that stored carbon, global greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 11 per cent, said Lorna Harris, the lead author of the statement and a forests, peatlands and climate change scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. Canada’s peatlands span northern Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta and Ontario as well as throughout the Northwest Territories and Yukon.

“That’s what’s at stake,” Harris told reporters at a Zoom press briefing on Dec. 1. For years, the peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowlands in Ontario have been under threat of mining development.

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