Biogeosciences Discuss., 9, 14327-14364, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
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This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG). Please refer to the corresponding final paper in BG.
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. Nichols26,27, T. M. Nieminen28, G. M. MacDonald29, N. R. Phadtare30, N. Rausch31, Ü. Sillasoo32, G. T. Swindles33, E.-S. Tuittila14, L. Ukonmaanaho28, M. Väliranta14, S. van Bellen15, B. van Geel34, D. H. Vitt35, and Y. Zhao36
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, DNSS, 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
12School of Geography, 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, and Division of Ecology and Evolution, Imperial College, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK
18BIAX Consult, Hogendijk 134, 1506 AL Zaandam, The Netherlands
19CNRS, EcoLab/Campus Ensat, Avenue de l'Agrobiopole, BP 32607, Auzeville Tolosane, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France
20The Finnish Forest Research Institute, 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 Institut des Sciences de l'Environnement, Université du Québec à Montréal, GEOTOP UQAM, C. P. 8888 Succ Centre-ville, Montréal, Québec, 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
27Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA
28The Finnish Forest Research Institute, P.O. Box 18, 01301 Vantaa, Finland
29Institute of the Environment and Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
30Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehra Dun, India
31Keltenstr. 8, 76307 Karlsbad, Germany
32Institute of Ecology, Tallinn University, Uus-Sadama 5, Tallinn 10120, Estonia
33School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
34Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, P.O. Box 94248 1090 GE Amsterdam, The Netherlands
35Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL 62901, USA
36MOE Key Laboratory of West China's Environmental System, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 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 declines 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.

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 Discuss., 9, 14327-14364, doi:10.5194/bgd-9-14327-2012, 2012.
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