Assessment of an integrated peat-harvesting and reclamation method: peatland-atmosphere carbon fluxes and vegetation recovery
The Canadian horticultural peat industry generates carbon emissions through various methods of peat extraction, processing, and land-use changes. This study provides a carbon emissions analysis comparing the traditional vacuum harvest (VH) and block-cut (BC) extraction techniques to a new acrotelm transplant (AT) method that restores natural peatland function by preserving and replacing the surface layer vegetation as part of the extraction process. The relative global warming potential for each extraction method was determined by estimating carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane exchange for each phase of peat extraction, including emissions from land-use change and machinery fuel consumption. Preliminary findings, based on 1 y of measurements, indicate that the AT technique has the lowest annual carbon emissions compared to the VH and BC methods. Projected total carbon emissions from a 75-ha peatland after 50 y of extraction using the AT technique produced a sink of approximately 3300 t CO2 equivalents (CO2-e). This represents a marked reduction in total carbon emissions estimated for the VH (19 000 t CO2-e) and BC (29 000 t CO2-e) extraction techniques. This analysis suggests that the AT method reestablishes peat accumulation and peatland carbon storage function more effectively than the VH and BC methods, which are associated with delayed restoration efforts. Consequently, the AT technique has the potential to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of the Canadian horticultural peat industry.