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Media Opportunity: Dal researcher shows how cool peatlands really are and how they can help reduce heat stress in a warming climate
Peatlands -- those wet, mossy bogs often characterized by a lack of trees -- are known to be one of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth for their ability to store carbon, preserve biodiversity and lessen the risk of flooding.
Now, a new international study led by a Dalhousie University researcher suggests peatlands may also play a critical role in lowering summer temperatures and heat stress in vast regions of Canada and other northern countries.
Dr. Manuel Helbig, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science and lead author of the paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that pristine peatlands can substantially reduce summer air temperatures and increase humidity in the air compared to evergreen forests – the dominating forest type in the boreal zone.
Dr. Helbig and his team used long-term observations of energy exchanges between the land and the atmosphere from North America, Europe and Russia to show that boreal peatlands cool the climate by transferring much more water vapour and less sensible heat into the atmosphere than boreal evergreen forests.
In some regions, peatlands have been drained and degraded over centuries and continue to be exploited for industrial activities. But this study shows that these ecosystems likely play a significant role in regulating temperatures and should be conserved or restored to help minimize climate change impacts in these regions.
“Our discovery not only highlights that protecting and restoring peatlands can reduce climate warming rates in regions with large peatland coverage, but also that reduced warming rates could have important positive effects on human well-being, ecosystem health and wildlife.”
Dr. Helbig is available to explain the importance of these ecosystems and how the new findings can help guide land management and conservation efforts with the aim of minimizing climate change impacts.
Senior Research Reporter
Faculty of Science
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