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Biologists alerted to the danger of disappearing turf swamps

The forest invasion of peat moors reduces its capability of binding carbon and leads to the climate warming. The conclusion has been drawn by the joint Russian-British research team.
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Peat moors cover only about 3% of world’s surface, but the packed remains of plants contain a vast number of bound carbon with its volume being estimated as a half of those carbon present in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Hence, the peat moors have a notable impact on the climate of the whole planet by absorbing and emitting carbon as methane and carbon dioxide.

During the last 12 thousand of years, the turf swamps promote lowering temperature by storing carbon and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, step by step the moors are covered with the drainage by people or become overgrown with forests. The hydrobiologists Yuri Mazej from Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) (https://www.msu.ru/en/) together with colleagues from other institutions of Russia and UK have found out how this process influences the climate.

«We have addressed the types of ecosystems which dramatically change upon the transition from open to forested areas of a landscape and have described their specific characteristics: composition and structure of macro- and microbiota, physical and chemical characteristics,» - Mazej said.

Moreover, the biologists have studied stratigraphic columns (sequentially deposited layers of peat) in the open and covered with forests areas of West Siberian peat moors and also on the border between these areas. This analysis has approved the hypothesis that in the recent years, the peat moors become overgrown.

The researchers have concluded that the foresting turf swamps lowers its capability of accumulating carbon which leads to the formation of warmer and drier climate. «To understand the flexibility of the discovered mechanism, one should repeat the study for the other spot of our planet with large areas of pear moors,'' - Mazej commented.

The research article is published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Recently, the Russian geologist has discovered gold and silver in a peat moor in Kemerovo region.

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