This is a great article on the subject of peat. What I have learned and discovered over the past two years is that:
1 Almost every acre of land surface holds ten tons or more of carbon, usually in living form. Amazingly it has been discovered that this also includes the deserts. Unfortunately, when this living material dies, it is either consumed or reconverted back into CO2. This includes the tropics and particularly the tropics. All that carbon mass is reduced so fast that tropical soils are worthless in less than a year in most cases. And yes it is all put into the atmosphere as CO2.
2 The only way that nature has to store carbon outside the permanent soil bank is to toss it into a swamp were a non reducing environment predominates. Therefore every wetland is a carbon sink. The recent surprise was the recognition that the boreal forests do a better job than tropical rainforests, though that was more a belated recognition that a tropical rainforest is a living organism not meant to store anything.
In the meantime, agriculturalists have often processed wetlands into working fields. There is nothing wrong with that so long as one is able to build these fields on top of the peat itself. There is normally a natural wetting and drying cycle associated with these lands to begin with. It is not clever at all to fully drain such a wetland because it will swiftly consume itself and one is often left with a sandy bottom and little soil.
In fact, during the early settlement of
, the smart and connected homesteaders grabbed all the bottom lands for their farms. The unconnected were forced to farm the uplands above the rivers and wetlands. The wetlands swiftly disappeared and turned into sand and stone. The uplands prosper to this day. The folk explanation was that the soil washed down river. The truth was that simple draining allowed the black soils to turn into CO2. Ontario
This also happened on the sod breaking of the
Great Plains. Crops with six inch root systems do not support and replenish two feet of soils, so that soil evaporates. Again the folk explanation was that it washed downriver.
My argument is that we are still amateurs in the proper husbandry of wetlands. Wetlands need to be properly diked for water level management and carefully leveled to accommodate a variety of crops. This also preserves the sequestered carbon and maintains it as a living interface.
I do not know what the palm plantations are all about but draining swamps is certainly unconvincing. Particularly when a palm puts down deep tap roots often in sandy soils. That is why they show up on barren sandy islands and desert oasis.
I think that we can all agree that draining peat lands is simply stupid since it merely lowers the land level and forces the operator to repeat the process until the bottom is reached and the land becomes possibly idle.
The best natural crop would likely be cattails because it would allow flooding and possible regrowth of the underlying surface peat it the cattails can properly coexist which seems likely. At least cattails would represent a possible restorative rotation for the wetland it other crops are been also produced.
As you can see, we have just begun to think this through and to explore our options. There are millions of hectares world wide, not least the biggest single resource of potentially productive wetlands.
I have already posted on the boreal forests. There a natural husbandry system based on cattail filled wetlands harvested for their fodder can by integrated with cattle husbandry quite easily. Even the roots can go to the feed cycle if no other market is developed. Thus we ample open woodland for the cattle to forage in the summer and supplemental winter fodder.
We can do better than that by domesticating the natural grazers in the same environment. Moose in particular are quite successful summer grazers and providing a winter supplement should permit a fattening cycle until spring as well as predator protection. We can do the same with deer and caribou.
The reason the boreal forest have never been farmed was the lack of a convenient fodder crop. Cattails and modern harvesting equipment solves that problem. It can also be operated in the peat filled bogs without loss of carbon.
I make it sound almost easy, but of course it is not during the early stages. It takes effort and equipment to prepare cattail meadows with water control. We have to figure out how to do all that cheaply and efficiently. Then the harvesting equipment must be also produced and perfected. However, once that is in place and it is working it should be satisfactory as a ongoing sustainable business.
Peat and Repeat: Can Major Carbon Sinks Be Restored by Rewetting the World's Drained Bogs?
Bogs, swamps and mires help keep 500 billion metric tons of carbon out of the atmosphere, so preserving peatlands is emerging as a new priority
By David Biello
BOREAL PEATLAND: Remaining boreal forests in
store some 208 billion metric tons of carbon, or 26 years worth of global emissions from burning fossil fuels. Canada