Large Soil Carbon Storage in Terrestrial Ecosystems of Canada Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractTerrestrial ecosystems of Canada store a large amount of organic carbon (C) in soils, peats and plant materials, yet little is known about the C stock size and distributions, both spatially and in various C pools. As temperature rises, C is becoming available for disturbance, decomposition and eventual release into the atmosphere, which makes the quantification of C stocks in terrestrial ecosystems of Canada of high interest for the assessment of climate change impacts and conservation efforts. We used a large number of field measurements, multisource satellite, climate and topographic data and a machine learning algorithm to produce the first wall‐to‐wall estimates of C stocks and uncertainties in plants and soils of Canada at 250 m spatial resolution. Our findings show that above and belowground live biomass and detritus store a total of 21.1 Pg of carbon (Pg C). Whereas the Canadian soils store 306 (±147, 90% confidence interval) Pg organic C in the top 1 m, 98 Pg C of which are stored in peatlands, confirming that the soil organic C dominates terrestrial carbon stocks in Canada. We also find previously under‐reported large soil organic C stocks in forested peatlands on the boreal shields of Canada. Given that Canada is warming twice the global average rate and Canadian soils store approximately 20.4% of world soil C stocks in top 1 m, initiatives to understand their vulnerabilities to climate change and disturbance are indispensable not only for Canada but also for the global C cycle.


  • Sothe, Camile
  • Gonsamo Gosa, Alemu
  • Arabian, Joyce
  • Kurz, Werner A
  • Finkelstein, Sarah A
  • Snider, James

publication date

  • February 2022