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Nat Commun. 2019 Jun 26;10(1):2804. doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-10762-4.

Petroleum exploration increases methane emissions from northern peatlands.

Author information

1
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada. mstrack@uwaterloo.ca.
2
Science and Technology Branch, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Gatineau, QC, K1A 0H3, Canada.
3
Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 1N4, Canada.
4
Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada.
5
Boreal Research Institute, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Peace River, AB, T8S 1R2, Canada.

Abstract

Peatlands are globally significant sources of atmospheric methane (CH4). In the northern hemisphere, extensive geologic exploration activities have occurred to map petroleum deposits. In peatlands, these activities result in soil compaction and wetter conditions, changes that are likely to enhance CH4 emissions. To date, this effect has not been quantified. Here we map petroleum exploration disturbances on peatlands in Alberta, Canada, where peatlands and oil deposits are widespread. We then estimate induced CH4 emissions. By our calculations, at least 1900 km2 of peatland have been affected, increasing CH4 emissions by 4.4-5.1 kt CH4 yr-1 above undisturbed conditions. Not currently estimated in Canada's national reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, inclusion would increase current emissions from land use, land use change and forestry by 7-8%. However, uncertainty remains large. Research further investigating effects of petroleum exploration on peatland GHG fluxes will allow appropriate consideration of these emissions in future peatland management.

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