4 Jun

Map of the Week: PEATMAP

By Samantha Hinton

PEATMAP is an improved global peatland map by Xu et al, 2018. With peatlands’ significant role as carbon sinks within the global carbon cycle, continuing to study and map their extent and distribution will be crucial for future studies on the climate crisis. 

PEATMAP shows global peatland distribution produced from a meta-analysis of a range of geospatial information. They analyzed and compiled data from a range of peatland databases at global, regional, and national levels as well as fine spatial resolutions, including digitized soil maps, wetland databases, and satellite imagery. In areas, where peatland data was not available like Mongolia and North Korea, peatland extent was estimated using histosol distribution from the Harmonized World Soil Database.

The map estimates that the total global peatland area is about 4.23 million km2 (1633212.13 miles2), which is about 2.84% of the total world land area. Their map illustrates that the areas around the arctic, specifically the Western Siberian Lowlands in Russia and the Hudson and James Bay Lowlands in Canada are central peatland hotspots. Additionally, lower latitudes, like the Congo, Southeast Asia, and Amazon Basins are also areas with high concentrations of peatlands. 

Peatlands deliver vital ecosystem services, ranging from ecological, economic, and cultural. There is no universally accepted definition of what peat is but it consists of plant detritus in water-saturated environments. A population definition cited by PEATMAP is Joosten and Clarke’s (2002) definition of peat as “a sedentary accumulated material consisting of at least 30% (dry mass) of dead organic material.”  

You can read more about how action against global peatland degradation is imperative in this critical review of digital mapping of peatlands.

You can also read more about how this PEATMAP was put together in Xu et al. paper