Karukinka’s Carbon Markets

Tierra del Fuego’s Karukinka conservation area is a patchwork landscape, encompassing the Southern Hemisphere’s largest and best conserved southern beech forests, peat bogs, high mountain meadows, and grasslands. The preserve’s 290 square miles of peat lands are among its most valuable ecosystems for their ability to trap greenhouse gases. In addition to working as a “carbon sink,” the peat also serves as a vast water reservoir for the island’s human and wildlife residents.

Challenges

Prized for its use as ornamental horticulture and organic soil enrichment, Karukinka’s precious peat is highly sought after on both the domestic and international market. As climate change dries up peat fields in ecosystems closer to the Earth’s poles, these lands face tremendous risks—not only will they lose their function as carbon sinks, they actually release their gases into the atmosphere, becoming carbon sources.

The peat lands of Karukinka are in close proximity to roads and coastlines, making them an easy target of commercial extraction. While most of the peat fields in the Magellan Region are protected and off limits to exploitation, those in Karukinka are highly vulnerable. Under Chilean law, even though WCS owns the Karukinka property, it does not own the mining rights, so outside companies may purchase these rights and extract the peat.

Goals

  • Assess peat extraction currently taking place on concessions just outside Karukinka.
  • Secure the protection of the Karukinka peat through the funds generated by carbon offset credits.
  • Conduct research on the shifts in temperature, peat hydrology, soil composition, and animal and plant assemblages brought on by climate change.

What WCS is Doing

WCS is currently working to document how much carbon Karukinka’s peat keeps out of our atmosphere, the threats it faces, and how we can take steps to preserve it. In the near term, WCS is working to sell carbon offset credits generated from the protection of the peat bogs. Introducing funds from the global carbon market to Karukinka can provide long-term, sustainable funding to conserve and protect these precious lands. If peat mining were to come to Karukinka, the reserve would risk releasing more than 200 million tons of carbon directly into the atmosphere.

From the Newsroom

New Gadgets for GuanacosJune 19, 2008

Eight guanacos in Chile’s Karukinka Reserve are wearing radio-collars as part of a study to preserve a critical population of these animals, known for their spectacular migration.

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