Putting mountain peatlands and their Carbon Stocks on the Map
Although covering only 3 percent of Earth's land surface, peatlands store about 30 percent of all soil carbon. Mountain peatlands are unique and important peatland types present in high-elevation ecosystems across the globe, yet their distribution and reserves and fluxes of soil carbon are poorly understood. Working with colleagues at U.S. universities and scientists from tropical Andean countries of South America, Forest Service scientists and the agency’s Northern Research Station are building scientific knowledge and capacity to manage mountain peatlands effectively. These peatlands are critical to water supply for major cities, are used as pasture for livestock, and are important reserves of carbon and sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide, but are being impaired by changing land use. The research team developed improved methods for mapping these peatlands’ distribution, depth, and carbon stocks. Extensive peatlands in the Andes of Ecuador and Peru have been mapped. These peatlands, although lacking trees, store much more carbon per unit area than a typical tropical rainforest. The maps will be used as a basis for improved management of these ecosystems and to inform land use policy.The methods developed will be useful in mapping peatlands in the mountains of the United States and across the globe.
Forest Service Partners