Peatlands are unique and beautiful ecosystems, which include bogs, fens, moors, mires, pocosins, and muskeg. Peatlands simply are ecosystems that accumulate peat (dead organic matter derived mostly from plants). Peat accumulates where plant productivity exceeds soil losses via decomposition, leaching, and disturbances such as wildfire. Due to slow rates of peat accumulation over millenia, peatlands have stored carbon from the atmosphere as peat, today storing an estimated 30% of the world’s soil carbon pool. However, peatlands also serve as a net source of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Credit: Merritt Turetsky

The majority of the world’s peatlands are found in the boreal biome. Northern peatlands can be forested, shrubby or open (no trees). There are two major types of peatlands: ombrotrophic bogs and minerotrophic fens. The ground-layer of bogs is dominated by Sphagnum mosses, while fens can be dominated by a variety of moss or herbaceous species. Because of its unique chemistry, Sphagnum further inhibits decomposition and promotes peat accumulation.

Credit: Merritt Turetsky

In addition to global carbon cycling, peatlands play an important role in regulating permafrost and hydrological cycles due to the strong insulation and water retention of peat. 

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