Peatlands in Canada: Linking science, policy, and practice to protect an essential carbon service
Presented by Lorna Harris, University of Alberta
One quarter of the world’s peatlands are found in Canada. Covering over 1.1 million km2, peatlands in Canada represent the world’s largest peatland carbon stock (~150 Gt). In intact and undisturbed peatlands, this stored carbon is an essential ecosystem service, or ‘carbon service’ that represents the avoided emission that would occur if the natural equilibrium of these ecosystems is altered by human disturbance. If we are to reach the goal of net zero global CO2 emissions by 2050, it is imperative that that this critical carbon service provided by peatlands across Canada continues. However, there are currently few policy safeguards to protect this carbon service or other peatland ecosystem services in Canada. To develop evidence-based policy and improve decision-making for peatlands across Canada, persistent collaborative and coordinated action that better links science, policy, and practice is required.
Here, we describe the imminent impacts of global climate warming, land-use change, and other human disturbances on the globally significant carbon stock in peatlands across Canada. We also examine the ways that peatland carbon is quantified and reported on in Canada, and highlight some limitations that are further exposing the vulnerabilities of this critical carbon service. We end by identifying policy gaps and mechanisms to better inform carbon reporting and decisions on land-use and peatland protection in Canada.