By Henry Fountain
Kristyn Housman grabbed the end of a sampling auger, a steel tube that two colleagues had just drilled into a moss-covered hummock in a peat bog, and poked through a damp, fibrous plug of partly decomposed peat.
Peat has been building up for centuries in this bog, where the spongy moss is interspersed with black spruces and, on a late spring morning, the air is teeming with mosquitoes. The sample, taken from three feet down, is at least several hundred years old, said Ms. Housman, a graduate researcher at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
“There’s literally tons of carbon here,” she said, looking around the bog, which covers several acres off a muddy oil-company road amid the vast flatness of northern Alberta.
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