A massive peat bog covering some 40,000 to 80,000 square miles has been discovered in the central African nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reported the BBC.
After satellite images suggested what could be a huge tropical peatland -- about the size of England, according to the BBC -- in a remote area of Congo-Brazzaville, a research team from the University of Leeds, the Wildlife Conservation Society-Congo, and Congo-Brazzaville's Marien Ngouabi University ventured into the soggy area and confirmed its presence.
Peat is formed when plant matter does not fully decompose and sinks over time into the soil. The peat-layer in the enormous bog reaches nearly 23 feet beneath the ground and contains billions of tonnes of ancient, partially decayed vegetation, researchers said.
"Peatlands, generally, have been a big carbon sink over the past 10,000 years," the University of Leeds' Dr. Simon Lewis told BBC News. With so much organic matter caught so deep in the carbon-packed soil, the team hopes peat samples taken from the area will help shed more light on Earth's distant-past climate.
Besides its sheer size, another thing that makes the peat bog discovery amazing is its location in a tropical climate, Lewis said. Peatlands generally need colder areas that will slow vegetation decomposition. "It's rare to find them in the wet and warm tropics, so that makes this an unusual discovery," he said.
The peat samples taken from the expedition have been sent to the United Kingdom for analysis.