Peat may protect permafrost

    Peat may protect permafrost

15 September 2007

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Canada — Peat and vegetation may buffer the impact of climate change and keep permafrost in northern Canada from melting, researchers said.

Permafrost is frozen soil that remains at or below freezing for at least two consecutive years. It currently covers more than 30 percent of Earth’s surface and about 42 percent of Canada’s land mass, McMasters University said Friday in a release.

A report by McMasters researchers, published in Geophysical Research Letters, said a layer of peat above the permafrost acts as insulation by trapping air pockets, which reduce heat transfer and help permafrost retention.

The researchers said disturbance of local ground cover or fires in the boreal forest and tundra, however, could accelerate permafrost thaw. They said preservation of peat layer and forests may help in maintaining permafrost in northern regions.

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