Volume 39, Issue 3 p. 1040-1056
RESEARCH ARTICLE

The 1949 Atlas of French peat deposits, a starting point for a national inventory of peatlands

Lise Pinault

Corresponding Author

Lise Pinault

Chrono-environnement UMR 6249, CNRS, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Besançon, France

Correspondence

Lise Pinault, Chrono-environnement UMR 6249, CNRS, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, F-25000, Besançon, France.

Email: [email protected]

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Malo Pilloix

Malo Pilloix

Fédération des Conservatoires d'Espaces Naturels, Pôle-relais Tourbières, Besançon, France

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Gregory Bernard

Gregory Bernard

Fédération des Conservatoires d'Espaces Naturels, Pôle-relais Tourbières, Besançon, France

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Daniel Joly

Daniel Joly

ThéMA, UMR 6049, CNRS and University of Bourgogne Franche Comté, Besançon, France

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Sébastien Gogo

Sébastien Gogo

ECOBIO Rennes, UMR 6553, Université Rennes 1, CNRS, Rennes Cedex, France

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Elsa Martin

Elsa Martin

CESAER, UMR 1041 INRA, Dijon, France

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Daniel Gilbert

Daniel Gilbert

LTSER France, Zone Atelier Arc Jurassien, Chrono-environnement UMR6249, CNRS Université de Franche-Comté, Besançon, France

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First published: 24 May 2023

Abstract

Fifty per cent of European peatlands are in a damaged state. While intact peatlands are natural carbon sinks, degraded sites release important amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Restoration of the hydrological functionality of peatlands has proved to be an efficient tool to avoid these emissions. In France, Tuffnell & Bignon's ministerial report (2019) emphasized the need for peatlands ‘integration into the National Low Carbon Strategy, targeting carbon neutrality by 2050. However, current knowledge regarding French peatlands’ distribution and carbon stocks is insufficient and does not allow decision makers and managers to prioritize areas for restoration. The most complete database to date is the 1949 Atlas, an inventory of exploitable peat deposits that was conducted during WWII for peat exploitation as fuel. Until its digitalization, the latter database was archived and never used in a scientific study. It provides detailed information about peatland surfaces, peat thicknesses and carbon contents at that time. We estimated peat carbon stocks from French peatlands to be 111 Mt C in 1949 for 63,290 ha identified as peaty sites, the equivalent of 3% of the organic carbon contained in the upper 30 centimetres of French soils. 34% of this stock was held in Lower Normandy (37.7 Mt C) and 12% in the Picardy's region (13.0 Mt C), in large lowland peatlands. However, not all peatlands were prospected in the 1949 inventory and the characteristics of the prospected peatlands may have changed with anthropic disturbances of the last decades, such as draining or climate change. These first results highlight the need for a recent inventory of French peatlands and carbon stocks based on local data aggregation. Data from the 1949 Atlas could help constituting this new inventory but should be validated before being used to describe the present.

DATA AVAILABILITY STATEMENT

The data that support the findings of this study are openly available in [dat@UBFC] at [doi: 10.25666/DATAOSU-2021-03-01], reference number [FR-18008901306731-2021-03-01].