Biogeosciences, 10, 929-944, 2013
© Author(s) 2013. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
08 Feb 2013
Climate-related changes in peatland carbon accumulation during the last millennium
D. J. Charman1, D. W. Beilman2, M. Blaauw3, R. K. Booth4, S. Brewer5, F. M. Chambers6, J. A. Christen7, A. Gallego-Sala8,9,10, S. P. Harrison9,11, P. D. M. Hughes12, S. T. Jackson13, A. Korhola14, D. Mauquoy15, F. J. G. Mitchell16, I. C. Prentice11,17, M. van der Linden18, F. De Vleeschouwer19, Z. C. Yu4, J. Alm20, I. E. Bauer21, Y. M. C. Corish16, M. Garneau22, V. Hohl1, Y. Huang23, E. Karofeld24, G. Le Roux19, J. Loisel4, R. Moschen25, J. E. Nichols26, T. M. Nieminen27, G. M. MacDonald28, N. R. Phadtare29, N. Rausch30, Ü. Sillasoo31, G. T. Swindles32, E.-S. Tuittila14, L. Ukonmaanaho27, M. Väliranta14, S. van Bellen15, B. van Geel33, D. H. Vitt34, and Y. Zhao35 1Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, EX4 4RJ, UK
2Department of Geography, University of Hawai`i Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
3School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, UK
4Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA
5Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
6Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research, SNSS, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, UK
7Centro de Investigación en Matemáticas, A.P. 402, 36000 Guanajuato, Gto., Mexico
8QUEST, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1RJ, UK
9School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1SS, UK
10Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Lund Universitet, Sölvegatan 12, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
11Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2109, Australia
12Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, Hants, SO17 1BJ, UK
13Department of Botany, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071, USA
14Department of Environmental Sciences, P.O. Box 65, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
15School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen AB24 3UF, UK
16Botany Department, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland
17Grantham Institute for Climate Change and Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College, Silwood Park, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK
18BIAX Consult, Hogendijk 134, 1506 AL Zaandam, The Netherlands
19CNRS and Université de Toulouse, INP, UPS, EcoLab, ENSAT, Avenue de l'Agrobiopole, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France
20School of Forest Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 68, 80101 Joensuu, Finland
21Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Newfoundland A2H 6P9, Canada
22Département de Géographie and GEOTOP, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, H3C 3P8, Canada
23Department of Geological Sciences, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA
24University of Tartu, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, Lai 40, Tartu 51005, Estonia
25Institute of Bio- and Geosciences 3: Agrosphere, Research Centre Juelich (Forschungszentrum Jülich), Jülich 52428, Germany
26NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA, and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
27The Finnish Forest Research Institute, P.O. Box 18, 01301 Vantaa, Finland
28Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
29Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun, India
30Institute of Environmental Geochemistry, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 236, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
31Institute of Ecology, Tallinn University, Uus-Sadama 5, Tallinn 10120, Estonia
32School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
33Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, P.O. Box 94248 1090 GE Amsterdam, the Netherlands
34Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
35Institute of Geographic Science and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
Abstract. Peatlands are a major terrestrial carbon store and a persistent natural carbon sink during the Holocene, but there is considerable uncertainty over the fate of peatland carbon in a changing climate. It is generally assumed that higher temperatures will increase peat decay, causing a positive feedback to climate warming and contributing to the global positive carbon cycle feedback. Here we use a new extensive database of peat profiles across northern high latitudes to examine spatial and temporal patterns of carbon accumulation over the past millennium. Opposite to expectations, our results indicate a small negative carbon cycle feedback from past changes in the long-term accumulation rates of northern peatlands. Total carbon accumulated over the last 1000 yr is linearly related to contemporary growing season length and photosynthetically active radiation, suggesting that variability in net primary productivity is more important than decomposition in determining long-term carbon accumulation. Furthermore, northern peatland carbon sequestration rate declined over the climate transition from the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA) to the Little Ice Age (LIA), probably because of lower LIA temperatures combined with increased cloudiness suppressing net primary productivity. Other factors including changing moisture status, peatland distribution, fire, nitrogen deposition, permafrost thaw and methane emissions will also influence future peatland carbon cycle feedbacks, but our data suggest that the carbon sequestration rate could increase over many areas of northern peatlands in a warmer future.

Citation: Charman, D. J., Beilman, D. W., Blaauw, M., Booth, R. K., Brewer, S., Chambers, F. M., Christen, J. A., Gallego-Sala, A., Harrison, S. P., Hughes, P. D. M., Jackson, S. T., Korhola, A., Mauquoy, D., Mitchell, F. J. G., Prentice, I. C., van der Linden, M., De Vleeschouwer, F., Yu, Z. C., Alm, J., Bauer, I. E., Corish, Y. M. C., Garneau, M., Hohl, V., Huang, Y., Karofeld, E., Le Roux, G., Loisel, J., Moschen, R., Nichols, J. E., Nieminen, T. M., MacDonald, G. M., Phadtare, N. R., Rausch, N., Sillasoo, Ü., Swindles, G. T., Tuittila, E.-S., Ukonmaanaho, L., Väliranta, M., van Bellen, S., van Geel, B., Vitt, D. H., and Zhao, Y.: Climate-related changes in peatland carbon accumulation during the last millennium, Biogeosciences, 10, 929-944,, 2013.
Publications Copernicus