Why Do We Want to Conserve Peatlands?

oil sands peatland

Dr. Bin Xu is a man with a mission. As a peatland ecologist, he wants to increase awareness of the importance of peatlands and wetland ecosystems in our environment. Based in NAIT’s Centre for Boreal Research, Xu is the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (IRCC) in Peatland Restoration. The focus of his work is understanding the impact of human activities on peatland and finding ways to reduce that footprint.

Peatlands are a type of wetlands found in almost every country on the planet, especially in boreal regions, including Canada’s boreal forest. In total, they cover about three percent of the global land surface where they host a unique wetland habitat providing a home for many unique plant and animal species. 

The peat itself is made up of decaying vegetation or other organic matter and it can hold up to 20 times its own weight in water. According to the UN Environment Programme, peatlands store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forest combined! By protecting and restoring peatlands, Dr. Xu and his colleagues can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr. Xu has been involved in many projects to reclaim peatlands that have been disturbed by oil and gas mining and peat harvesting in Alberta and eastern Canada. He works closely with universities, industry, including COSIA members, and others to develop science-based techniques to reclaim disturbed peatlands. Xu participates in COSIA research projects and has been both a reviewer and a presenter at COSIA conferences.

He also provides peatland education for land managers, government and industry representatives, and reclamation practitioners through workshops, seminars and other training. Xu has presented at a number of COSIA conferences and events.

Listen to what Xu has to say about his work. 

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