Caister Academic Press

Geoengineering the Climate via Microorganisms: a Peatland Case Study

Christian Dunn, Nathalie Fenner, Anil Shirsat and Chris Freeman
from: Climate Change and Microbial Ecology: Current Research and Future Trends (Second Edition) (Edited by: Jürgen Marxsen). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2020) Pages: 517-548.

Abstract

Peatlands contain more than double the amount of carbon than is found in the biomass of the world's forests. Such stores are due to the build-up of dead plant material, resulting from restraints on microbial decomposition in the peat-substrate: in particular the inhibitory effects of phenolic compounds create an 'enzymic latch' on the breakdown of organic matter. We propose that this mechanism could be harnessed for a number of peatland-based geoengineering schemes. Such strategies would involve using molecular, agronomical and biogeochemical approaches to manipulate microbial activities in peatlands - maximising their abilities to store and capture carbon. Although like all geoengineering proposals, peatland geoengineering does not offer a 'magic bullet' in reversing the effects of climate change, it potentially has numerous advantages over other suggested schemes. Moreover, recent research indicates that this stored carbon can be made far more resilient to future global warming than had previously been appreciated. Most of the technologies and knowledge are already established, the projects are reversible, and they do not compete with other land uses such as food production. It can therefore be argued that peatland geoengineering offers a realistic 'Plan B' to save the planet from the effects of anthropogenic climate change read more ...
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