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Discovering A Huge Carbon Sink Hidden Under Our Very Feet

Peat is usually associated with cold places, not the middle of the hot, humid, Congo Basin. It’s an organic wetland soil made of partially-decomposed plant debris. In waterlogged places those plants can’t entirely decompose, and are not respired as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The peat thus builds up slowly, locking up ever-more carbon. The amounts involved are huge: peat covers just 3% of Earth’s land surface, but stores one-third of soil carbon. We knew that peat can be formed under some tropical swamp forests. Might the world’s second largest tropical wetland, known as the Cuvette Centrale, overlie peat? (Click on title for full story.)