Canada's Carbon-Sequestering Soil Environments
Canada is home to unique soil environments capable of storing large amounts of carbon. These environments include permanently and perennially frozen soils in the Northern Circumpolar Region and in the Boreal and Subarctic Peatlands.
Northern Circumpolar Soils
The Northern Circumpolar Region is the area of the globe north of 60° N latitude. Countries contained in this region include: Canada, the USA (Alaska), Russia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, and Greenland.
The Northern Circumpolar Region contains approximately 50% of the global soil carbon pool. Much of that carbon is in organic matter that accumulates as peat at the soil surface or is buried deep within the soil profile through cryoturbation, a process by which soil is churned through freeze-thaw cycles. This organic matter and the carbon it contains is locked up in permanently or seasonally frozen ground, unable to decompose under current conditions. An expected increase in temperature due to global climate change has the potential to thaw this carbon and release it into the atmosphere. For this reason, soils in the Northern Circumpolar Region are a critical component of climate change modelling and prediction.
Canada's Boreal and Subarctic Peatlands
13% of Canada's land area (approximately 1.136 million km2) is made up of peatlands, wetland ecosystems that accumulate organic matter under waterlogged conditions. These peatlands are essential to the global environment because they store carbon, absorb pollutants, and retain, purify and deliver fresh water. They also support several plant and animal species, many of which are endangered. Most Canadian peatlands occur in the Boreal Peatland Region (64%) and Subarctic Peatland Region (33%). 59% of all stored carbon in Canada is contained in these peatlands.