Peat bogs are wetlands with a thick layer of organic soil. They cover only three percent of the earth’s surface, but they store 20 percent of the carbon in the world’s soil. In Borneo, the third largest island in the world, in its southern zone a large part of the vegetation grew in the form of peat bogs. To plant in peat, palm oil producers dug huge ditches to drain the water, to dry the land. The peat, when drained, decomposed rapidly and released large amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. To aggravate the problem, the peat to dry becomes highly flammable. In 2006, Borneo experienced one of the worst seasons of fires that are remembered. The smoke from the fires triggered a “carbon bomb” that enveloped the region in a thick haze visible from space.
Permafrost is another potential danger in the face of global warming. These frozen soils, but without ice, can be imagined as frozen deserts. They cover about 25% of the total land on the planet. Permafrost soils are extremely rich in organic carbon, accumulated in the subsoil for thousands of years. Once this material melts, the microbes turn it into carbon dioxide and methane, which rise into the atmosphere and increase the greenhouse effect and global warming. The tundra is a permafrost soil that remains frozen all year. In the taiga, the soil can freeze during the winter, but during the summer months the surface thaws, although the deeper parts remain frozen.
With increasing global warming there is a risk that permafrost will become a net emitter of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing the global warming and climate change, thus producing a dangerous feedback effect. Permafrost is located in the northern hemisphere, mainly in Alaska, Canada, Siberia, Norway and Tibet. In Russia, more than 63% of its territory sits on permafrost zones. In the southern hemisphere it is found in the Georgias and Sandwich Islands.