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A swampy forest in central Africa the size of England covers previously unknown carbon stocks equivalent to three years' worth of global CO2 emissions, scientists revealed Wednesday.Draining these peatlands for agriculture, or reduced rainfall due to climate change, would release massive amounts of planet-warming greenhouse gases, they warned in a study published in Nature magazine.Peatlands are carbon-rich ecosystems that cover three percent of Earth's land surface, but store about a third of all soil carbon.More recently, however, scientists have understood that peatlands, which are at least 30 centimeters (a foot) thick, harbor fast stores of carbon in the form of the greenhouse gases that are driving global warming.The Congo Basin peatland average about 2 meters (six feet) in thickness.Simon, who discovered the massive peatlands and helped map its contours, explained how a 145,500 square kilometer (56,000 square mile) patch could escape notice for so long.
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