1International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling, Hamburg, Germany
2Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
3Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany
*now at: Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
Abstract. Since the Last Glacial Maximum, boreal wetlands have accumulated substantial amounts of peat, estimated at 180–621 Pg of carbon. Wetlands have significantly affected the atmospheric greenhouse gas composition in the past and will play a significant role in future changes of atmospheric CO2 and CH4 concentrations. In order to investigate those changes with an Earth system model, biogeochemical processes in boreal wetlands need to be accounted for. Thus, a model of peat accumulation and decay was developed and included in the land surface model JSBACH of the Max Planck Institute Earth System Model (MPI-ESM). Here we present the evaluation of model results from 6000 yr BP to the pre-industrial period. Over this period of time, 240 Pg of peat carbon accumulated in the model in the areas north of 40° N. Simulated peat accumulation rates agree well with those reported for boreal wetlands. The model simulates CH4 emissions of 49.3 Tg CH4 yr−1 for 6000 yr BP and 51.5 Tg CH4 yr−1 for pre-industrial times. This is within the range of estimates in the literature, which range from 32 to 112 Tg CH4 yr−1 for boreal wetlands. The modelled methane emission for the West Siberian Lowlands and Hudson Bay Lowlands agree well with observations. The rising trend of methane emissions over the last 6000 yr is in agreement with measurements of Antarctic and Greenland ice cores.