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Research in Northern Ontario Providing Important Global Climate Change Data

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Research in Northern Ontario Providing Important Global Climate Change Data

McGuinty Government Researching Carbon Storage in Peatlands

A unique study of Ontario's Far North could become very important to international efforts to fight climate change, according to information released today at the climate change conference in Copenhagen, or COP-15.

Ontario is establishing a network of three long-term monitoring stations in the Hudson Bay Lowlands to study the carbon holding properties of peatlands. Only a handful of such stations exist in the world.

Peatlands are important to climate change for their ability to capture carbon and store it for thousands of years. Recent studies show this storage capability could be at risk. Carbon stores in peatland soils are vulnerable to being released as greenhouse gases, as warming temperatures thaw the permafrost.

Each monitoring station will continually monitor the air, providing real-time data. This data will help scientists better understand the unique role of peatlands in storing carbon or releasing it into the atmosphere, a process known as "carbon flux".

The first monitoring station was established in July 2009 at Kinoje Lake in the Hudson Bay Lowlands. Installation of the other two stations will be phased in between 2010-2012.

Quick Facts

  • Forty to 50 per cent of the world's peatlands exist in Canada; a large part of them falls within Ontario's borders.
  • Northern peatlands, while covering only three to five per cent of the earth's area, store between 20 to 25 per cent of all carbon stored in the earth.
  • Peatlands are the most dominant land cover type in Ontario's Far North. These peatlands have some of the highest carbon densities found on land (150 to 200 kilograms per square metre versus less than 75 kilograms per square metre found in a typical Boreal upland forest or tropical rainforest).
  • The Hudson Bay Lowlands area, most of which is in Ontario, is one of the largest peat basins in the world, second only to the Western Siberian Lowlands. It is a globally significant carbon store.
  • The Kinoje Lake carbon flux monitoring station operates on its own by solar power and is located in a bog approximately 80km north-west of Moosonee.
  • Approximately 4,000 lbs of materials were carried 650 metres from the access point on Kinoje Lake to the monitoring site.

Additional Resources

Quotes

“This project will provide a valuable contribution to the science of climate change. The information collected from these monitoring stations will strengthen our understanding of the important role Ontario's Far North plays in our changing climate.”

John Gerretsen

Minister of the Environment

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