Peatlands of Continental North America

Living reference work entry

Abstract

The boreal zone of North America is a mosaic of peatlands, lakes, and upland forests all adapted to exist in a climate characterized by long, cold winters and short, cool summers. Precipitation falls mostly as snow in the winter and through localized thunderstorms during the summer. Peatlands, consisting of minerogenous fens and ombrogenous bogs, are an important sink of both carbon and nitrogen, and in boreal western Canada occupy from 30 % to 40 % of provincial landscapes. Two of the world’s largest wetlands occur in continental North America, both dominated by bogs and fens. The Hudson Bay Lowland in Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba is the second largest peatland area in the world, while the peatlands of the Mackenzie River watershed in Alberta, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon are generally considered the third largest peatland complex. It is estimated that the USA and Canada together have about 1.86 million km2 of peatland area most of which is located in the boreal zone with a continental climate. This is about 40–45 % of the world’s 4 million km2 of peatland. Peat is the undecomposed remains of organic matter. In boreal peatlands, cold anaerobic conditions allow deep deposits (2–5 m) of peat to develop over thousands of years. These deposits 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. Peat deposits are formed in place and hold a permanent, long-term record of the development of individual peatlands and can form significant proxies for past climate.

Keywords

Significant Proxy Boreal Zone Permafrost Thaw Kettle Hole Boreal Peatlands 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

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

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