Peatlands of Continental North America

  • Dale H. VittEmail author
Reference work entry


Peatlands in the USA and Canada are estimated to cover about 1.86 million km2, most of which is located in the boreal zone with a continental climate and constitutes about 40–45% of the world’s 4 million km2 of peatland. Deep peat deposits (2–5 m) in boreal peatlands hold large stores of both carbon and nitrogen, estimated at about 33% of the global soil carbon and 10% of the world’s soil nitrogen. The accumulation of carbon in peat is extremely sensitive to environmental disturbances. Changes in precipitation and temperature regimes related to climate change could act to decrease the accumulation rate, thus causing peatlands to turn from a carbon sink to a carbon source to the atmosphere. Peatlands provide a number of important ecological services, including not only significant carbon and nitrogen stores but also wildlife habitat, water filtration, and are home for a number of rare and endangered species and have been utilized and considered as culturally significant by native Americans for centuries.


Boreal zone Peat Carbon Nitrogen Holocene Paludification Bogs Fens Climate change 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Biology and Center for EcologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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