The world's peat bogs are a climate time bomb waiting to go off: they store about 455 gigatonnes of carbon, and are releasing increasing amounts. But according to Chris Freeman of Bangor University, UK, we could turn that around. Peat bogs could be used to geoengineer the climate by removing carbon dioxide from the air.
Freeman is trying to develop a genetically modified sphagnum that could boost the amount of carbon stored in peat. Sphagnum naturally produces phenolic compounds that slow the decomposition of the plants that make up peat. Preventing peat decomposition will help keep the carbon it holds locked away. Freeman wants to create a sphagnum that overproduces phenolics, slowing peat decomposition even further.
Freeman says the genetically modified sphagnum could store enough carbon each year to offset global transportation emissions. It will take at least 10 years to develop the modified plant.