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Peatland loss is making the oil sands carbon footprint more visible


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By: Wetlands International

March 15, 2012 - The loss of peatlands covering the oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta causes carbon emissions of a magnitude between 11 and 47 mton. These figures of the Albertan University were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Canadian scientist calculated that these peatland-carbon losses will be equal to the already huge emissions of 7 years of oil sand mining in the region. Restoration of mined areas by reforestation leads to far less carbon sequestration compared to an area with peatlands.

Currently debates take place in Europe whether tar sands should be banned as a fuel due to their high carbon footprint. Our organisation supports the call to ban carbon dense fuels (see the letter to European governments).

The emissions resulted from land use change are subject of the dispute and still have no good methodological background for evaluation.

Wetlands International currently conducts a research on the peatlands in the oil sands area, to come up with detailed peatland area mapping and carbon storage, sequestration rate and GHG emissions evaluation. Results are expected later this year. To enable the mining sector and Albertan government to limit peatland loss and to promote peatland friendly restoration and compensation technologies, Wetlands International believes further studies are needed to identify the impacts and related green house gas emissions from peat removal for oil sand exploitation. Many technologies are available to avoid or reduce such impacts, but these will require appropriate policies and incentive mechanisms.

Article PNAS: Rebecca C. Rooney, Suzanne E. Bayley, and David W. Schindler. Oil sands mining and reclamation cause massive loss of peatland and stored carbon. PNAS. 2012.

See an article on Mongabay.

Peatlands are wetlands with carbon dense, organic soils. Wetlands International is the leading NGO on peatland conservation and restoration. Click for more information about our peatland work. Click for information about peatlands.

 

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