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Villanova scientists predict oil sands’ impact on peat, climate change — NewsWorks.
“Very few ecosystems have done such a good job of taking carbon dioxide out of the air, over thousands of years, and storing it as soil, as peat bogs have,” said Wieder. Peat bogs are carbon “sinks,” ecosystems that store more carbon than they release.
Estimated to be around 7,000 years old, the world’s peatlands have been storing carbon since glaciers receded after the last ice age.
That carbon fixation is crucial for maintaining Earth’s temperature. “If we took all of that carbon that’s now in peat and put it back in the atmosphere, we would increase the carbon dioxide concentrations by at least 50 percent and the world would be a very warm place,” said Wieder.
But some oil companies are trying to put back what Wetland reclamation efforts by two oil companies dug up in their experimental stages.
Jonathan Price, Professor of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo, works in peatland restoration and reclamation. He is a part of a team working on a former Suncor mining site, attempting to reintroduce peat and other plant life.
Price and the team at Suncor harvested plant life from a “donor site” and distributed it over the pilot area, a process called surface layer transfer. The planting finished last May.
“The material that has been transferred seems to be doing well, but I have to caution that it’s still early in the process,” said Price.
In the meantime, the area of peatland affected by tar sands mining continues to grow.