Scientists Map Vast Peat Swamps, a Storehouse of Carbon, in Central Africa By Henry fountain

Summary: After years of research by the University of Leeds in England, it has been discovered that they have found the largest peatland in the tropics.

Peats are large deposits of dead plant material , that are typically slow in decomposing. They often contain mosses and have poor swampy drainage, a characteristic accounting for its infertile soil.

Located in the Congo Basin of Central Africa, the peat has been accumulating for over 10,000 years.Peatlands are a natural sink for Carbon taken from the atmosphere.

The swamp they discovered holds over 30 billion metric tons of carbon, equivalent to two decades of fossil fuel emissions for the United States!

This discovery was made by Dr. Lewis and his colleagues many years ago, as they explored wetlands known as "Cuvette Centrale", a body of land that is along the border of the the Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. The vegetation they found was hypoxic and lacked many nutrients, resulting in its slow decomposition. Using satellite imaging, this 55,000 mile stretch of land required extensive analysis to uncover the depth of the peat, 20 feet. These measures made for my accurate calculations in approximate stored carbon. Although peat covers only 3% of Earth's land surface, because of its prolonged decomposition processes it contains the equivalent of all the world's vegetation and atmospheric Carbon!

While most peatlands are in Alaska, Canada, and Russia, tropical peatlands are more vulnerable with land use changes and changing climate. These environmental changes can lead to peat drying out and faster decomposing, which releases Carbon back to the atmosphere at an alarming rate.

Satellite images of peat in Indonesia that was drained for oil-palm production, leading to fires and rapid carbon release.

The Congo Basin has long been undisturbed, but with this recent discovery, scientists and environmentalists alike fear the meddling of this habitat as it contains 30% of Carbon found in tropical peatlands worldwide. Additionally, i With this new knowledge coming to surface environmental science Emma J. Stokes, director of Central African Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society has a word of warning:

..."I don't think we can sit back and relax and say that everything's going to be fine." “We definitely need to be proactive in avoiding any kind of land-use decisions that will risk impacting on these forests and peatlands.”

Analysis of Article: With this recent discovery of a possible, yet controversial energy source, it just goes to show how much unexplored territory there is as far as renewable energy resources and natural gas. This content is also noteworthy because the moss they found had been accumulating over 10,000 years. For this to be unchartered for so long, is unheard of given the amount of technology and research designed to uncover new energy sources.

Big Takeaway

After spending a month on studying fracking, natural gas, and before that, biogeochemical cycles, this article caught my eye. In the beginning of the article, I was hopeful that maybe this resource of decomposing moss could act as a energy sink to power many aspects of the manufacturing and energy industry. Because we recently learned about the detrimental effects of different means of producing energy, I was all the more positive. However, as I learned about the repercussions it would have on the habitat of vegetation and animals, I became more reluctant. As we enter the renewable energy unit, I look forward to learning more about the benefits and tradeoffs of other means of production, and comparing them to this recent discovery.

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