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Peatlands are unique habitats that are covering around 3% of the land area and they are characterized by high sensitivity to climate. These very complex ecosystems impact both water and carbon cycle at local as well as global scale. Peatlands are also valuable ecosystems due to their mitigating features in terms of floods or soil erosion and they can store and filtrate water in the landscape as well. As a result of high moisture they can also gather a big amount of carbon and this ability makes peatlands climate coolers. On the other hand a stored carbon can be released into the atmosphere due to peat moisture decrease and it accelerate the global warming processes. Beside climate changes, peatlands are under pressure that is caused by human activities like land use changes or fires. Peatlands protection and restoration can both mitigate climate changes and water balance disturbances. A review of peatlands status and feature in the context of climate changes and human-induced disturbances are presented in this paper.
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The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon
Storage Function in the Context of Climate
Kamila M. Harenda, Mariusz Lamentowicz, Mateusz Samson
and Bogdan H. Chojnicki
Abstract Peatlands are unique habitats that are covering around 3% of the land
area and they are characterized by high sensitivity to climate. These very complex
ecosystems impact both water and carbon cycle at local as well as global scale.
Peatlands are also valuable ecosystems due to their mitigating features in terms of
oods or soil erosion and they can store and ltrate water in the landscape as well.
As a result of high moisture they can also gather a big amount of carbon and this
ability makes peatlands climate coolers. On the other hand a stored carbon can be
released into the atmosphere due to peat moisture decrease and it accelerate the
global warming processes. Beside climate changes, peatlands are under pressure
that is caused by human activities like land use changes or res. Peatlands pro-
tection and restoration can both mitigate climate changes and water balance dis-
turbances. A review of peatlands status and feature in the context of climate
changes and human-induced disturbances are presented in this paper.
Keywords Peatlands protection and restoration Carbon storage
Climate change
K. M. Harenda (&)M. Samson B. H. Chojnicki
Meteorology Department, Poznan University of Life Sciences, Piątkowska 94,
60-649 Poznań, Poland
M. Lamentowicz
Department of Biogeography and Palaeoecology, Faculty of Geographical
and Geological Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, Ul. B. Krygowskiego 10,
61 680 Poznań, Poland
M. Lamentowicz
Laboratory of Wetland Ecology and Monitoring, Faculty of Geographical
and Geological Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University, B. Krygowskiego 10,
PL 61 680 Poznań, Poland
©Springer International Publishing AG 2018
T. Zielinski et al. (eds.), Interdisciplinary Approaches for Sustainable
Development Goals, GeoPlanet: Earth and Planetary Sciences,
1 Introduction
Water is the basic component of many processes on the Earth and its permanent
presence in the landscape causes the emerging of many unique and valuable
habitats such as peatlands. They are very sensitive ecosystems that arise due to
organic matter accumulation and high water table (Kulczyński 1949; Whiting and
Chanton 2001; Keddy 2002; Erwin 2009; Rydin and Jeglum 2013). The main factor
is inundation, which stimulates peat forming (mainly by anaerobic processes).
Globally, peatland habitats are rare (Gorham 1991; Keddy 2002) since they
cover approximately 3% of the land area on the Earth (Clymo et al. 1998; Blodau
2002; Rydin and Jeglum 2013) and store one-third of global soil carbon (Gorham
1991; Lappalainen 1996; Page et al. 2011; Rydin and Jeglum 2013). Most peatlands
are located in the northern hemisphere (around 80% in the boreal and subarctic
zones), 10% can be found in the tropics and Southeast Asia and another 10% are
located in the temperate zone (Yu et al. 2010, Frolking et al. 2011, Tobolski 2012).
Figure 1shows peatlands distribution on the Earth (Main Report 2007).
The classication of peatlands can be very complex, yet the simplest one con-
sists of four types of peatlands (Keddy 2002):
Swampdominated by trees with roots in hydric soils (not in peat), like tropical
mangrove swamps.
Marshdominated by herbaceous plants emerging through the water and rooted
in hydric soils (not in peat), like reed beds around the Baltic Sea.
Bogdominated by Sphagnum moss, shrubs, sedges or evergreen trees with
roots in deep peat, like oating bogs covering shores of lakes in temperate and
boreal regions.
Fendominated by sedges and grasses rooted in the peat and considerable
water movement through the peat is noticed, like the extensive peatlands in
northern Canada.
Fig. 1 Percentage peatlands distribution per country (Main Report 2007)
170 K. M. Harenda et al.
Peatlands ecological functions can have direct and/or indirect effects. The rst
group of functions is related to water, including: storage, ltration and supply. They
also mitigate oods and prevent erosion. They stabilize the macroclimate and play
an ecological function. Due to their ability to retain water, peatlands often prevent
drought (Tobolski 2012). Indirect functions include nutrient retention, carbon
storage, and sediment retention. Peatlands provide water to other ecosystems and
they are rich in biological diversity (genetic reservoirs of many organisms). Their
unique features create habitats suitable for many endemic and/or endangered spe-
cies of plants and animals and they can form ecological corridors enabling
migration (Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008). Peatlands can be considered as sources of
humus in the landscape (Keddy 2002;Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008). Peatlands can be
also considered as an archive of past climates due to their sensitivity to weather and
capability of long term conservation of produced biomass (Clymo et al. 1998). The
carbon accumulation process in the peat appears when the rate of organic matter
decomposition is lower than the amount of primary production of the ecosystem. In
their natural state, peatlands are usually carbon sinks (Turunen et al. 2002;Mäkilä
and Saarnisto 2008) and this feature makes these ecosystems very important ele-
ments of the environment in the context of climate change, since the absorbed CO
is one of the major greenhouse gases. Furthemore, peatlands possess unexplored
diversity of protists playing important role in this ecosystem (Marcisz et al. 2014;
Geisen et al. 2017; Mulot et al. 2017) They contribute to carbon xing, however
this issue still needs scientic investigation (Jassey et al. 2015,2016).
Analyses of modern and palaeoenvironmental data identify peatlands as an
element of nature that is predicted to affect future climate. Therefore, further
research, protection and restoration of these vulnerable ecosystems should be a
priority in the context of global warming (Dise 2010; De Jong et al. 2010;
Lamentowicz et al. 2016). The maintenance of those peatlandsfunctions requires
the appropriate management and conservation. This paper contains the overview of
peatlands function in the context of future environmental changes and the inter-
actions between the climate and these valuable ecosystems.
2 Carbon Dynamics in Peatlands
Despite the fact that peatlands cover relatively small area of the land, their role in
the global carbon cycle is not insignicant (Frolking et al. 1998; Moore et al. 1998;
Yu et al. 2011; Charman et al. 2013; Loisel et al. 2014). There are several processes
in the peatlands where carbon is involved, such as CO
the exchange with the
atmosphere, the emission of CH
, the production and export of dissolved organic
carbon (DOC) and others (Moore et al. 1998). Furthermore, peatlands are very
important stores of temporarily sequestered carbon (Clymo et al. 1998; Ilnicki and
Iwaniszyniec 2002; Rydin and Jeglum 2013).
The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 171
The carbon balance of peatlands is basically determined by two processes,
photosynthesis and respiration. There are several factors that determine the process
of photosynthesis including solar radiation, CO
, water, air temperature and
nutrients (Maćkowiak and Michalak 2008). The carbon compounds enter into
peatland biomass through this process. Further transformation of this biomass is
deeply dependent on hydrology. High humidity of the soil leads to anoxic condi-
tions that slow down the decomposition processes of organic matter. The peat is
formed as a result of those processes - production (photosynthesis) and decom-
position (respiration) and a clear, negative correlation between those opposite
processes is observed (Clymo 1984;Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008). Decomposition is
the second controlling factor of carbon accumulation. This makes the peatlands
more sensitive to climatic changes than to plant composition changes (Ise et al.
2008). In general, it was found that the lowest carbon accumulation was observed at
the sites with the lowest water table e.g. forested and sparsely forested mires while
the highest sequestration rate was observed in young Sphagnum peatland in coastal
regions. These costal peatlands are good examples of high carbon accumulation rate
since the Sphagnum production is mainly controlled by the moisture that is trans-
ported from the sea (Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008). Under the present climate con-
ditions, differences between the carbon accumulation ability of different types of
peatlands are noticeable. The boreal raised peatlands are currently a carbon sink
(Turunen et al. 2002), whereas the northern circumpolar wet aapa-mires are source
of greenhouse gases and their carbon accumulation rate is lower than most southern
raised bogs (Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008).
In addition, part of pristine areas, mainly tropical and permafrost, may no longer
accumulate the peat because of recent climate changes (Main Report 2007).
Peatlands are second only to oceans natural stock of carbon and they can contain
twice as much carbon than the entire worlds biomass (Rydin and Jeglum 2013).
This is the effect of high carbon concentration in the peat (approx. 50%). Peatland
ecosystems are characterized by low productivity but long-term storage. However,
the length of the storage time depends on the wetness of the substrate (Strack 2008).
In general, the absorption of CO
from the atmosphere over 12,000 years
allowed for the large quantity storage of carbon in the peat (Yu et al. 2010). The
global estimation of the peatlands carbon storage is problematic mainly due to the
difculties of precisely dening the area of peatlands and the assessment of
the thickness of peat layer. Recently, large areas of peatlands were also discovered
inter alia in Peruvian Pastaza-Marañón (Draper et al. 2014) and the Congo Basin
(Dargie et al. 2017). These ndings determined the increase of the estimation of
tropical peatland carbon stock by 36%, to 104.7 GtC (Dargie et al. 2017). Currently
the global amount of carbon that is stored in the peat is estimated to exceed 600 GtC
and the sizes of northern, southern and tropical stocks are approximately 550 GtC,
15 GtC and 100 GtC, respectively (Yu et al. 2010;Köchy et al. 2015; Abrams
2016; Kleinen et al. 2016).
The amount of this resource is inter alia the result of ice ages when the peat-
landsrole in the global carbon cycle was clearly noticeable. The CO
in the atmosphere during this period dropped by approx. 100 ppm and one of the
172 K. M. Harenda et al.
explanations of this fact was high water saturation of the high-latitude soils that
slowed down the rate of organic matter decomposition (Zech et al. 2011). This
factor has the biggest importance in the carbon accumulation process in the soil.
When the climate was getting warmer (after the glacial period), the permafrost
started to disappear and the result of this process was the emission of trapped soil
carbon both in gas (CO
and CH
) and dissolved in water (DOC-dissolved organic
carbon and POC-particulate organic carbon) forms (Limpens et al. 2008; Billett
et al. 2010). Simultaneously, higher concentrations of CO
in the atmosphere and
higher air temperature during summer improved the effectiveness of the photo-
synthetic process that induced a rapid growth of vegetation. The high latitude areas
that were released from the ice cover became a suitable environment for new
peatlands to form. Due to continuous spatial expanding of peatlands during the
early Holocene period years ago, a noticeable drop in CO
concentration was found
(Zech et al. 2011). The linkage between thawing permafrost and expanding forest
was also found. When the ice was melting down and peatlands of Arctic North
America and Eurasia were releasing the greenhouse gases, the expansion of forests
northward into tundra compensated for this emission (Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008).
It was also found that local environmental factors and natural succession of
peatlands may attenuate the regional relationships between climatic factors and
observed stratigraphical and hydrological changes of peatlands in Finland (Mäkilä
and Saarnisto 2008).
3 Hydrology
The minimum ambient temperature provides the conditions for peatland growth if
the proper amount of water is available (Yu et al. 2009). Therefore, water, in the
context of peatlands, is considered a rst-order factor determining their occurrence,
growth and development (Keddy 2002). The water balance of peatland basically
consists of precipitation, evapotranspiration, runoff and retention and the climate
solely regulates all presented elements (Charman and Mäkilä2003;Mäkiläand
Saarnisto 2008). In the temperate climate conditions, water is the most important
ecological factor that determines two types of peatlands: rheotrophic mires (fens)
that are fed directly by both rain- and ground-water ow, and ombrotrophic mires
(raised bogs) that rely on water input only in the form of rainfall (Moore et al. 1998;
Tobolski 2012). In the case of ombrotrophic raised bogs it is impossible to detect
the impact of surface runoff and groundwater so the only reasonable components of
the water balance are precipitation and evapotranspiration (Charman and Mäkilä
Peat growth is related to the amount of precipitation and temperature, thus the
changes in the hydrology can be studied by analyzing the changes of the peat
accumulation rate in the peat prole (Yu et al. 2009). Paleoecological studies show
The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 173
that more peat was accumulated during wet periods in Holocene and it had an effect
of the higher growth of existing peatlands as well as their proliferation in the
landscape (Yu et al. 2003). Conversely, during the Holocenes dry periods the rate
of carbon accumulation dropped to about half of the present level. These changes
caused by the precipitation reduction were found at both the northern and tropical
peatlands (Strack 2008). These ndings make the peatlands very large natural
carbon stock highly vulnerable and susceptible to any changes of hydrological
cycles (Erwin 2009; Belyea and Malmer 2004; Clymo et al. 1998; Dise et al. 2011).
The complexity of peatlands functions and its high vulnerability to many factors
impede the detailed assessment of the future dynamics of these ecosystems.
Nowadays, palaeoecological and observational studies strongly suggest that peat-
lands will be affected mainly by climate change and human determined distur-
bances (Turetsky et al. 2002; Mauquoy and Yeloff 2007;Yu2007; Lamentowicz
et al. 2008).
4 Climate Change
Climate change can be considered as both natural (Erwin 2009) and anthropogenic
(IPCC 2013) and it has been associated with a range of weather-related disasters,
including droughts, windstorms, ice storms and wildres (Canadian University of
Waterloo report). Moreover, some climate changes will certainly have impact on
peatlandshydrology but other changes may cause an increase in local and regional
temperature, alter evapotranspiration, biogeochemistry, amounts of suspended
sediment loadings, re, oxidation of organic sediments and the physical effects of
wave energy (Erwin 2009; Burkett and Kusler 2002). Global air temperatures
increased by about 0.7 °C during the period of 19062005 (IPCC 2013).
Furthermore, on the basis of general climate models scientists predict that the
temperature will increase by additional 28 °C by the end of the 21st century,
depending on the region (Christensen et al. 2007; IPCC 2013; Erwin 2009). IPCC
also predicts changes in precipitation that consider both extreme rainfall periods and
periods of drought (IPCC 2013).
Recently, global estimation of carbon loss from the upper soil horizon due to
1 °C increase varies from 30 to 203 GtC by 2050 (Crowther et al. 2016). This
temperature could induce a global increase in heterotrophic respiration of 0.038
0.100 GtC per year (Dorrepaal et al. 2009). Moreover, the amount of global CH
emission from the peatlands is estimated at approximately 0.123 GtC per year. Due
to the fact that at high latitudes the air temperature will increase to a greater extent
in the next century, the emissions of CH
from the northern areas can increase
disproportionately (Bridgham et al. 2013). It is believed we can expect even bigger
loss of carbon in the form of methane in the future.
174 K. M. Harenda et al.
5 Fires
The role of peatland res in the carbon cycle deserves increased scientic attention
(Gorham 1991; Strack 2008). Recently, scientists have observed the climate
warming causing longer and more severe drought periods that in the near future
may result in higher re activity (Higuera 2015; Kettridge et al. 2015). These heat
waves may amplify the re activity in peatlands and lead to a release of huge
amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Turetsky et al. 2011,2015). The
enormous load of carbon that has remained in peat over millennia will be converted
into the atmospheric part of the global carbon cycle. The peat res can be also the
source of non-CO
greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. For instance, anoxic
conditions present at peatlands result from the fact that res of these ecosystems can
emit around ten times more CH
per unit of combusted biomass than res of
savannas (Yokelson et al. 1997; Andreae and Merlet 2001; Christian et al. 2003).
These increased GHG emissions may cause the intensication of the greenhouse
effect and lead to rising temperatures which intensify the frequency of climate
determined res. This positive feedback is amplied by more frequent boreal for-
ests res (Randerson et al. 2006; Flanningan et al. 2001). Moreover, peatland res
can smolder for months due to the thick peat layer and pose a threat of further res
in the vicinity of peatlands (Benscoter et al. 2015). These conditions can be
observed, especially in autumn when the peat moisture is relatively low (The
Guardian 2016). The peat destroyed by the re is the source of mineral compounds
in the environment (Strack 2008). Thus, this temporary heavy fertilization results in
the withdrawal of plants not adapted to such conditions (Kuhry 1994; Sillasoo et al.
2011). The presence of permafrost in the peat proles of the northern peatlands
effectively limits the depth of peat burning but the projections of its thawing
reduces the re resistance of these ecosystems (Natural Resources Canada 2016).
Recently, the tropical peatlands destruction became an important environmental
issue. These usually pristine ecosystems were systematically destroyed by drainage
and burning and these activities altered their water and carbon retention capabilities.
As a result, the peatlandscarbon balance was shifting from a sink to a source
(Wösten et al. 1997; Page et al. 2002; Canadell et al. 2007; Rieley et al. 1996). Page
et al. 2002 estimate that due to big res in 1997 the dried peatlands of Indonesia
released 0.82.6 GtC both from peat and vegetation, which represents around
1340% of the mean annual global carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels in
the world. As a result, in 19972009 the contribution of peatland res to total global
emissions increased from 4% to 5% (Werf et al. 2010). Tropical peatlands re with
vegetation changes have a meaningful impact on the carbon cycle, the atmosphere,
the ecosystem services and they cause wide-ranging social and economic impacts
too. Recently, res at extensive tropical peatlands have become more regular and
the biggest ones were linked with the El Niño phase of ENSO that causes long
drought periods (Page et al. 2009a). Rapid land use changes and climatic variability
led to an increase of re frequency in recent decades. In addition, highly variable,
The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 175
from year to year, carbon emission from this source will not be balanced by
peatlands regrowth that follow the re (Werf et al. 2010).
Peatlands and their carbon stock can be also affected by res of the vegetation in
the surrounding areas. Fires causing local or regional deforestation affect hydrology
of peatlands of different sizefrom small kettle-hole peatlands to extensive raised
bogs. It was shown for example that large res of the Notećforest in W Poland
caused not only hydrological changes (wet shift/aqualysis) but also triggered
oating mats development in some wetlands (Lamentowicz et al. 2015).
Furthermore, a high-resolution study by Marcisz et al. (2015) revealed how
important might be an indirect impact of res in a peatland catchment that was also
inferred recently from a peat core in S Poland (Kajukalo et al. 2016).
6 Peatlands Reduction
The disappearance of peatlands from the landscape had various spatial and temporal
intensity but it was always caused by the economic and/or vital needs of human.
Peatlands are potential farming areas thus they have been disturbed or completely
degraded by human activities over the last two centuries. Those transformations
were initially realized in Europe. For instance, 90% of peatlands in Switzerland
disappeared mainly due to conversion to agricultural, garden and vegetable crops
(Tobolski 2012; Lamentowicz et al. 2007).
This land-use change was mainly done by drainage that causes water table level
instabilities. This factor led to deeper aeration of acrotelm that resulted in abrupt
change - the replacement of plant communities and substantial transformation of the
peatland ecosystem (Milecka et al. 2016). The peat extraction for fuel and industrial
purposes is the second reason of peatland reduction (Strack 2008). There are large
quantities of peat harvested for electricity production in Finland, Ireland and
Sweden (World Energy Council 2013). Peatlands also disappear from the landscape
due to transformation in order to change the landscape retention e.g. river valley
ooding purposes or by irresponsible destruction e.g. the solid minerals, petroleum
and natural gas mining (Tobolski 2012). A good example of the negative impact of
mining activity was recently observed in the destruction of peatlands in Canada.
The preparation of these areas for bituminous sand mines caused the release of
around 11.44.73 million tons of stored carbon (Rooney et al. 2011).
Recently, socio-economic changes in Southern Asia caused enormous damage of
tropical peatlands (Page et al. 2009b). The average peat thickness of tropical
peatlands is around 5 m (maximum depths are over 20 m) while the mean thickness
of peat observed at higher latitudes is lower than in Finland which is around 1.2 m
(Page et al. 2011, Tropical peatlands-University of Helsinki). A place of special
importance in the context of climate protection is South-eastern Asia. Peatlands in
this region are signicant terrestrial carbon storage, both in aboveground biomass
and thick deposits of peat (Page et al. 2009a; Hamada et al. 2013).
176 K. M. Harenda et al.
In addition, tropical peatlands have far greater ability to accumulate carbon.
Although they represent only 10% of the worlds peatlands, they are responsible for
up to 37% of this potential. Tropical peatlands also contain 10 times more carbon
per hectare than ecosystem on mineral soils, whereas subpolar and boreal zone
peatlands contain 3.5 and 7 times more carbon, respectively (Strack 2008).Tropical
peatlands are an important component of the global terrestrial carbon resource
because they store around 20% of carbon of all peatlands in the world in both their
aboveground biomass and underlying thick deposits of peat (Page et al. 2011,
Tropical peatlands-University of Helsinki).
Nowadays most of these ecosystems are systematically destroyed mainly by
preparing the soil for palm oil plantations. These land use changes are realized by
deforestation, re and drainage because dry peat is much more prone to wildres
(Werf et al. 2010). This unprecedented scale of destruction converts the peatlands
into a big source of atmospheric CO
(Moore et al. 2013; Page et al. 2011; Hooijer
et al. 2010; Yale Environment 2017). Due to land use changes in 19902015, the
carbon reservoir in tropical southeastern peatlands has decreased by about 2.5 GtC
which corresponds to several hundred or even several thousand years of carbon
accumulation in peatlands (Miettinen et al. 2017).
Moreover, the rate of peat exploitation is more than twice as fast as in its
formation and it causes the decrease of peat by approximately 20 km
(Main Report
2007). These disturbances also modify the peat carbon dynamics due to the fact that
since 1990, southeast Asian disturbed peatlands caused a 32% increase in uvial
organic carbon ux. This increase is more than half of the entire annual uvial
organic carbon ux from all European peatlands. Moreover, altering the structure of
peatlands causes higher DOC release from deep peat layers that were formed
thousands of years ago (Moore et al. 2013).
Total peat destruction would be equivalent to 100 years of coal burning at
current rates. Additionally, the part of peatlands (including tropical and northern
permafrost ones) doesnt accumulate peat anymore due to global warming.
Consequently, the actual rate of carbon accumulation by all peatlands over the
world does not exceed 0.1 GtC per year (Main Report 2007).
7 Peatlands Protection and Restoration
The enormous scale of destruction of these ecologically valuable elements of nature
raised concerns and questions about the fate of these carbon depots and the inter-
action between the climate and peatlands in the future (Joosten et al. 2017; Bonn
et al. 2016).
There are two modes of peatlands protection, passive and active (Tobolski
2012). The passive protection consists of total or maximum exclusion of human
activities with the exception of preventing adverse changes introduced into the
The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 177
ecosystems by human activity. Usually it is realized by the introduction of different
conservation strategies. The active protection is applied at the objects where human
intervention is necessary. It leads to the preservation of peatlands along with rare
and peat-forming peatland species. For example, mowing is introduced in order to
stop vegetation succession on meadows (Hedberg et al. 2013; Kotowski et al. 2016)
or even removal of the humied peat from degraded fens (Klimkowska et al. 2010).
Moreover, large scale, long-term projects were utilized to restore raised bogs in N
Poland (Herbichowa 2007).
Peatland protection is also carried out on different spatial scales. For example,
the Ramsar convention that is the global intergovernmental treaty (adopted in 1971)
provided the framework for conservation and wise use of peatlands (Erwin 2009;
Matthews 1993). It was one of the rst modern legal instruments to conserve
natural resources on a global scale. It links the countries and restrains from
unreasonable exploitation of natural ecosystems. This conventions standards of
wise use principles of management and protection were adopted in the international
arrangements and the national laws (Matthews 1993). The Natura 2000 was a
network of nature protection areas that was adopted in 1992 for the protection of the
most seriously threatened habitats in the European Union territory. Peatlands are on
the list of the habitats that are protected by this form of conservation (Natura 2000).
Special attention to peatlands is also espoused by various countries. For example,
the Swiss federal constitution expressly states the importance of peatland protection
(Tobolski 2012), while in Poland the statutory form of peatlands protection is
peatland reserve and they are also protected in the framework of national parks,
ecological grasslands or documentation sites (Nature protection).
The peatlands that are already disturbed or destroyed can be reestablished with
restoration processes. Due to the fact that water is the most important factor
determining of the existence of peatlands, rewetting is most often the solution for
restoration of perturbed objects (Tuittila et al. 2000; Zerbe et al. 2013). However,
increased water level does not ensure successful restoration since high ground
moisture of can be insufcient for the restoration of peatlands.
Regardless of doubts about its effectiveness, rewetting can be accomplished in
many practical ways, e.g. construction of small retention devices to stop the water
outow with ditch drainage system (Glińska-Lewczuk et al. 2014; Bonn et al.
2016). Raising water levels to the soil surface or even above to maintain anaerobic
soil conditions results in environments that are good enough for rapid succession
towards closed peatland vegetation (Tuittila et al. 2000; Zerbe et al. 2013). Water
management gives promising results at many locations. Zerbe et al. (2013) found
that ten years after rewetting, manipulated peatlands in North East Germany formed
mosaic of vegetation types with the highest potential for peat formation. The
interesting case of positive impact of human activity that positively inuences the
peatlands can be found in maritime areas of Canada. The stretches of dikes that
protect agricultural land, infrastructure, homes and communities additionally inhibit
salt marshes from naturally shifting with the level of the sea and reducing
destructive wave action (Erwin 2009).
178 K. M. Harenda et al.
8 Discussion and Summary
Peatlands are very important terrestrial ecosystems due to their uniqueness, vul-
nerability and importance in the global water and carbon cycles as well as climate
forming. The arising and development of these ecosystems was always determined
by complex of thermal and hydrological conditions and due to long-term inuence
these factors peatlands are the second, after the ocean, stock of carbon in the world.
Peatlands interacted with atmosphere and cooling climate during the ice age by
storing greenhouse gases (GHG) related carbon. Some Holocene climate studies
suggest that peatlands are supposed to have cooled down the climate recently and
only anthropogenic emissions have prevented the initiation of the Ice Age
(Rudimann 2003).
Nowadays, the human activity and climate changes are expected to be the most
important factors determining the peatlands carbon sequestration (Charman et al.
2013; Loisel et al. 2014). Additionally, the res induced by both mentioned above
factors will become the serious threat for these ecosystems. This set of simulta-
neously acting factors affect both the hydrology, land use, temperature (direct and
indirect way) (Ferretti et al. 2005) and the intensication of extreme weather events
that also will have a destructive impact on every kind of ecosystem in the world.
There are accompanying effects that usually play role at local scale such as altered
hydrology, base ow shifts, decreased water resource, increased heat stress, soil
erosion, increased ood and risk of res etc. (Erwin 2009). All the factors described
above affect the stability of peatlands carbon stocks and nally lead to bigger
emission of carbon and warming up the atmosphere. These changes in the func-
tioning of peatlands transform many of them from climate coolers(carbon net
sinks) to the heaters(carbon net sources) and it can be considered as very serious
threat due to their possible positive feedback with climate. Additionally, the CO
uptake ability of peatlands will not be able even to compensate the anthropogenic
GHG emissions (Mäkiläand Saarnisto 2008; Petrescu et al. 2015).
The study of carbon exchange between the peatlands and the atmosphere is
necessary also because of high uncertainty of the estimation of CO
rise as a result of climate warming. The recent projections of CO
increase as an
effect of 1 °C temperature increase ranges from 1.7 to 60 ppm CO
(Frank et al.
2010; Cox and Jones 2008) and many climate change models do not include
peatlands or coral reefs (CaCO
) in the estimation of the future CO
in the atmosphere.
Peatlandsfunction as landscape water buffer that through the quick absorption
of precipitation can reduce the effects of oods are sometime neglected in the
short-term economy. Values of these ecosystems can be described by the following
example. The Canadian peatlands help to save around 3 million at rural site and
even 50 million at urban site and it was also estimated that dehydration of peatlands
under Canadian conditions will increase the cost of oods damages by 29% and
38% in rural and urban areas, respectively (Canadian University of Waterloo
report). The forest succession in the context of peatlands was also found and it is an
The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 179
element that mitigated the emission from the peatlands during the Holocene melting
period however recently this shift of plant cover can be limited by the wood
harvesting within the regular forest management. The forest surrounding the
peatland can be an effective barrier that prevents peatlands of fertile water impact
from the surrounding fertilized elds; therefore, the forests (especially dominated
by Pinus sylvestris) might affect peatlandstrophic state in long-term context
(Lamentowicz et al. 2007; Milecka et al. 2016).
There is no doubt that the global changes are unavoidable and because of that
fact the suitable management and protection strategy need to be implemented to
ensure the future peatlands sustainability. Since, mentioned before, the important
role of these ecosystems in the global carbon cycle the comprehensive under-
standing of the functioning of peatlands under climate change as well as human
impact that is critical for adequate protections strategy of peatlands. Additionally,
the protection of each object requires the basic knowledge about the local history,
ecology and specic character of the habitat which requires its precise analysis
(Erwin 2009; Page et al. 2011; Tobolski 2012). Moreover, the choice of protection
method is critical because of complex character of the inuence of each imple-
mented change.
Activities that will allow the effective protection of peatlands should include
good protection policy of peatlands that roots from general approaches expressed in
global/continental scale conventions and ends up with locally related protection
goals and tasks. Additional efforts necessary for successful protection are to
increase the public knowledge related to protected objects. The education is fun-
damental to gain the success in peatland protection, especially on local scale. The
effectiveness of maintaining the peatlands as the carbon sinks is directly related to
the ecological awareness of the local communities. Another tool that will support
the introduction of reasonable protection management is the appropriate monitoring
program (Słowińska et al. 2010) that provides the information both long and
short-term changes of these vulnerable ecosystems. Such system provides insights
to the potential ecological consequences of the changes, supporting the decision
makers to determine the management practices that should be implemented. It helps
also the understanding the range of current variability in some parameters and
detecting desirable and undesirable changes in time within peatland areas and
adjacent ecosystems (Erwin 2009). These activities will allow to introduce adequate
solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce or eliminate the
human impact on these valuable ecosystems.
Recently, beside protection, people have tried also to restore disturbed or
completely destroyed areas of the peatlands in the world (e.g. Werf et al. 2010).
Appropriate techniques are selected on the basis of local conditions and they are
related to water since this factor determines the existence of peatlands (Erwin
2009). Such actions have been taken inter alia in Germany and Canada and in these
cases it was successful (Zerbe et al. 2013). However, one must be aware that
restoration might not always be effective because past disturbances were too
180 K. M. Harenda et al.
Techniques that are often used concern rewetting and building the small reten-
tion devices in order to water retention in the peatlands or rising the water level.
This promotes the biological diversity and strongly moistened conditions cause also
the spreading of peatland vegetation that denitely has a positive effect on the
peatlands regeneration. A certain threat to the peatlands restoration may be a fact of
increased global water demand since it increased more than triple since 1950 and in
the future it is going to be doubled again by 2035 (Postel 1997). But, on the other
hand, peatlands as a store of water in the context of oods can offset the increasing
water demand. Summarizing this study, peatlands need to be protected and restored
as an element of sustainable development of global civilization since it is very
important in the context of mitigating the global warming effect.
Acknowledgements This work was supported by Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European
Union (No. PSPB-013/2010) and the National Science Centre, Poland (grant No. NN306060940
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The Role of Peatlands and Their Carbon Storage Function 187
... The main groups of factors responsible for the transformation of peatlands highlighted in literature are global climate change (Ojala and Louekari 2002;Barber et al. 2003;Charman et al. 2013;Lamentowicz et al. 2019a;Lunt et al. 2019) and human impacts: melioration (Glina et al. 2017;Kiryluk 2020), development of settlements and agriculture (Ojala and Louekari 2002;Page and Baird 2016;Glina et al. 2017), changes in land use (Lamentowicz et al. 2007;Glina et al. 2019a), drop in water level (Glina et al. 2019b(Glina et al. , 2022. As far as transformation of the existing peatlands is concerned, natural determinants of this process include global climate change (Joosten and Clarke 2002;Harenda et al. 2018), topoclimatic changes (Kucharzyk and Szary 2012) and lowering of the water Communicated by Jasper van Vliet. (Ilnicki 2002;Joosten and Clarke 2002;Gumbricht et al. 2017). ...
... Due to a significant amount of organic carbon being sequestered in peatlands (Harenda et al. 2018;Li et al. 2019;Lunt et al. 2019;Krüger et al. 2021), peatland degradation may lead to increased CO 2 emission. The scale of the aforementioned emissions from European drained peatlands ranges on average from 8.6 to 15.1 t CO 2 ha −1 year −1 (Hooijer et al. 2010;Juszczak and Augustin 2013). ...
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The main aim of this study is to identify trends in peatland management from the end of the nineteenth century to late twentieth century in the Tuchola Pinewoods (TP) located in NW Poland (young glacial zone, temperate climate). The analyses were performed based on the 1:100,000 Prussian topographic maps from the years 1876-1879 and the 1:50,000 Polish topographic maps from the years 1966-1986. A total of 744 peatlands were identified in TP (total area-10,762 ha, 3.03% of the studied region). Smaller peatlands of up to 1-2 ha were found to be most numerous (15.32% of total number), whereas those exceeding 15 ha cover the largest area (75.42% of total area). The analysis revealed a tendency regarding land management of peatlands in the study period-large peatlands were adapted for agricultural purposes, and the smaller ones were mostly transformed into woodlands. The most important factors influencing the directions of changes in the use of peatlands include as follows: the type of use of the adjacent areas, implementation of anthropogenic drainage systems and location in a lake catchment or a catchment drained by rivers or streams. Considering that 85.7% of total peatland area had been drained by 1986, the risk arising from greenhouse gas emission from peatlands should be regarded as high.
... Among the various ecosystems, peatlands are considered as one of the largest stocks of atmospheric carbon. They represent a highly powerful carbon pool, with more than 30% of earth's carbon stored in their soils, despite only 3% of land surface (Harenda et al., 2018). This distinctive characteristic is mainly due to long term, slower organic matter (OM) decomposition than primary productivity. ...
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The continuous measurement of CO2 fluxes at the open-top chamber experiment in the ombrotrophic peatland (located in the middle taiga zone, West Siberia, Russia) has been provided during the warm season of 2022 (beginning of June to beginning of October). The R eco, NEE and GPP were calculated for this period; abiotic factors related to CO2 emissions, such as PAR, air temperature, water table level and precipitation, were also measured. The monthly average values showed a negative NEE of -9.89 C g m-2 month-1 in July, a negative GPP of -34.19 C g m-2 month-1 in July, and a positive values Reco of 41.68 C g m-2 month-1 in August. In 2022, the studied peatland hollows were only a carbon stock in July, while in the remaining months they were a source of CO 2, which could be caused by small precipitation amount. The monthly average diurnal variations of CO2 fluxes showed similar behaviour for both the OTC plot and control plot fluxes, which may be explained by the similarity in vegetation cover.
... As a result of high moisture, they also store a large amount of organic carbon (OC), taken up from the atmosphere in the form of CO 2 , and this ability makes peatlands potential climate coolers. On the other hand, this C can be released into the atmosphere due to peat moisture and decreases in OC degradation, thus accelerating global warming [4,5]. ...
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The peatlands of Western Siberia occupy an area of about 1 million km2 and act as important regulator of carbon exchange between the earth and the atmosphere. Extrapolation of the results of discrete field measurements of CO2 fluxes in bog ecosystems to such a territory is a difficult task, and one of the ways to overcome it is to use a simulation model such as DNDC. However, using this model with a specific territory requires ground verification to confirm its effectiveness. Here, we tested the DNDC model on the largest pristine bog ecosystem of the world, the Great Vasyugan Mire (GVM). The GVM of western Siberia is virtually undisturbed by anthropogenic activity and is the largest bog of Northern Eurasia (53,000 km2). Based on various ground-based observations, the performance of the Wetland-DNDC model was demonstrated (Thale coefficient 0.085 and R2 = 0.675 for CO2). Model input parameters specific to the GVM were constrained and model sensitivity to a wide range of input parameters was analyzed. The estimated annual terrestrial carbon fluxes in 2019 from the GVM test site are mainly controlled by plant respiration (61%) and forest floor degradation (38%). The net CO2 emission flux was 8600 kg C ha−1 year−1, which is in line with estimates from other independent studies.
... Even though CO 2 uptake increases due to a longer growing season, natural peatlands have been predicted to lose C as a result of warming and related water table decrease (e.g. Crowther et al., 2016;Harenda et al., 2018). In peatlands, several studies have found a correlation and similar seasonal dynamics between vegetation greenness and CO 2 exchange (Järveoja et al., 2018;Koebsch et al., 2019;Peichl et al., 2015Peichl et al., , 2018Linkosalmi et al., 2016;Knox et al., 2017). ...
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Vegetation phenology, which refers to the seasonal changes in plant physiology, biomass and plant cover, is affected by many abiotic factors, such as precipitation, temperature and water availability. Phenology is also associated with the carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange between ecosystems and the atmosphere. We employed digital cameras to monitor the vegetation phenology of three northern boreal peatlands during five growing seasons. We derived a greenness index (green chromatic coordinate, GCC) from the images and combined the results with measurements of CO2 flux, air temperature and high-resolution satellite data (Sentinel-2). From the digital camera images it was possible to extract greenness dynamics on the vegetation community and even species level. The highest GCC and daily maximum gross photosynthetic production (GPPmax) were observed at the site with the highest nutrient availability and richest vegetation. The short-term temperature response of GCC depended on temperature and varied among the sites and months. Although the seasonal development and year-to-year variation in GCC and GPPmax showed consistent patterns, the short-term variation in GPPmax was explained by GCC only during limited periods. GCC clearly indicated the main phases of the growing season, and peatland vegetation showed capability to fully compensate for the impaired growth resulting from a late growing season start. The GCC data derived from Sentinel-2 and digital cameras showed similar seasonal courses, but a reliable timing of different phenological phases depended upon the temporal coverage of satellite data.
... The loss of soil porosity and reduced infiltration capacity of the peat blanket can result in less water entering a peat soil and lead to an increased overland flow, causing accelerated erosion (Owens, 2020). A larger area of the burned peatland promotes the larger risk of altering pore structure and configuration in the peat soil due to thermal stress (Harenda et al., 2018). More ash particles of burned peatland occupying the same volume of peat soil can result in less porosity and reduce the number of soil pores, so the peat soil becomes denser (Bodner et al., 2014;Huang & Rein, 2015). ...
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The tropical peatland ecosystems of Indonesia provide direct economic benefits to local communities and act to maintain local weather patterns. The impact of burning tropical peat swamp forests of land clearing for palm oil plantations can have significant consequences on the change in the characteristics of peat soil. The aim of this study was to determine the physical, chemical, and biological properties of peat soils by field and laboratory testing and analysis to understand changes in the nature and characteristics of peatlands at four locations in the Pelalawan Regency of Riau Province. The results showed that the effect of burning peat swamp forests can lead to a change in the physical, chemical, and biological properties of the peat soils. Soil permeability and the soil microbial population can significantly decrease with increasing fire severity. The effect of different fire severities on the characteristics of peat soil is verified to contribute to advanced management of the tropical peatland in the future.
... The peatland rose as a result of lake shallowing (Barabach, 2013) and surrounded by Noteć Forest (Kondracki, 1998), is the place of measurements of CO 2 /H 2 O exchange between ecosystem and the atmosphere using the eddy covariance technique (Chojnicki et al., 2007) as well as conducted manipulation experiments (Górecki et al., 2021;Rastogi et al., 2019). Peatlands are a special type of wetland, representing one of the largest natural terrestrial carbon storages that have a strong interaction in the climate system (Harenda et al., 2018;Lappalainen, 1996). The measurement campaign POLIMOS-2018 (Polish Radar and Lidar Mobile Observation System) was performed at this site from 24th May to 24th September 2018 with the goal of assessing the impact of atmospheric optical properties on terrestrial ecosystem functioning. ...
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The Atmospheric Boundary Layer (ABL) over two middle-latitude rural sites was characterized in terms of mean horizontal wind and turbulence sources using a standard classification methodology based on Doppler lidar. The first location was an irrigated olive orchard in Úbeda (Southern Spain), representing one of the most important crops in the Mediterranean basin and a typical site with Mediterranean climate. The second location was PolWET peatland site in Rzecin (Northwestern Poland), representing one of the largest natural terrestrial carbon storages that have a strong interaction with the climate system. The results showed typical situations for non cloud-topped ABL cases, where ABL is fully developed during daytime due to convection, with high turbulent activity and strong positive skewness indicating frequent and powerful updrafts. The cloud-topped cases showed the strong influence that clouds can have on ABL development, preventing it to reach the same maximum height and introducing top-down movements as an important contribution to mixing. The statistical analysis of turbulent sources allowed for finding a common diurnal cycle for convective mixing at both sites, but nocturnal wind shear driven turbulence with marked differences in its vertical distribution. This analysis demonstrates the Doppler lidar measurements and the classification algorithm strong potential to characterize the dynamics of ABL in its full extent and with high temporal resolution. Moreover, some recommendations for future improvement of the classification algorithm were provided on the basis of the experience gained.
... On the other hand, the peatland forest has an important role as an environmental buffer against climate change. Peatlands can restore carbon balance through photosynthesis and respiration (decomposition), and decomposition is the second controlling factor of carbon accumulation (Harenda et al., 2018). However, the overexploitation of natural resources and using fire for peatland clearing have contributed significantly to local and global climate change. ...
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The peatlands in Indonesia have changed quite a lot in recent years due to over-exploitation and climate change. The land-use change on peatlands resulted in soil infertility. The impacts of the degradation of peatlands are almost certain to worsen with the COVID-19 pandemic because the peatlands have an important role in providing food resources. Therefore, the peatlands restoration must be carried out considering the importance of the peatlands as food resources and carbon capture. One of the alternative solutions is to recycle the waste from agroforestry into organic fertiliser. This study aimed to investigate the application of organic fertiliser to restore soil fertility in the peatlands. The study also offered the circular economy scheme that can be applied in the peatlands to restore sustainability. The results showed that the degraded peatland that has been restored by adding organic fertiliser from local sources has a higher soil pH level than the one without adding organic fertiliser. The increase in pH level can decrease soil hydrophobicity and increase microorganism activities, encouraging biodiversity in the peatlands. In this study, the circular economy scheme by the integration between agroforestry and livestock was assessed economically and environmentally. Recycling cows’ manure and leaf litter from peatlands into energy and recycling biogas sludge into biochar for biogas purification and soil enrichment benefit economically and contribute to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
... 10] (Laraque et al., 2009; Mitsch & Gooselink, 2015; Mitsch et al., 2015).The Congo River Basin (CRB) is the second-largest continuous tropical rainforest in the world and hosts the largest peatland complex found anywhere in Africa[11] (Dargie et al., 2017). Peatlands are the largest natural terrestrial carbon store, helping to minimise flood and drought risk, retaining sediment and preserving global biodiversity[12] (Harenda et al., 2018). The central depression in the heart of this basin, famously called the "Cuvette Centrale", encircles the peatland complex. ...
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Printed edition of the special issue published in Water Journal
... Wetlands have been demonstrated to be among the significant important, effective and no or low-cost alternatives for sequestering CO 2 (Derakhshan-Nejad et al., 2019;Harenda et al., 2018;Lorenz & Lal, 2018;Nahlik & Fennessy, 2016;Reddy et al., 2016). Wetland possesses a complex ecosystem that includes lakes, marshes and floodplains mainly covered with Environ Geochem Health water-saturated soil, providing numerous services to human well-being and the environment, as classified by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Table 1) (MEA, 2005). ...
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As the climate change impacts are expected to become increasingly disruptive, affecting water security, environmental health and ecosystem, constructed wetlands receive attention for their functions in delivering various life-sustaining services to human and environmental systems. In this article, a systematic review was conducted through the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses standard to identify the current research on constructed wetlands’ nature values and services from 2011 to 2020 of two databases, namely Scopus and Web of Science. The criteria of assessment focus on holistic deliberation of subject matters, namely carbon sequestration and water security as regulating and provisioning services, as well as nature values of constructed wetlands, namely instrumental and intrinsic values. As a result, 38 articles were selected and comprehensively examined. As the lack of an interdisciplinary approach makes data and information integration difficult, this study derived an integrated classification of constructed wetlands’ services and mapped with its nature values, guided by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment framework. Besides, mechanisms and factors affecting carbon sequestration and water security were also discussed. The carbon–water nexus was then conceptualised as interlinkages between engineered and natural physicochemical processes at the interface between carbon and water cycles. To fill the gaps, based on the carbon–water nexus concept, a new framework was synthesised at the end of the deliberation for constructed wetlands in regulating local climate through carbon sequestration and ensuring water security through water treatment and purification as well as influencing socio-cultural values, which needs an integrated approach that is the novelty of this work. The framework integrates the dichotomy of the instrumental-intrinsic nature values of constructed wetlands to evaluate the importance and benefit of the carbon–water nexus. The framework that reveals the vitality of nature values provided by constructed wetlands can help improve the decision-making to prioritise ecosystem services and conservation efforts, particularly in the sustainable management of constructed wetlands.
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The importance of acetogens for H2 turnover and overall anaerobic degradation in peatlands remains elusive. In the well-studied minerotrophic peatland fen Schlöppnerbrunnen, H2-consuming acetogens are conceptualized to be largely outcompeted by iron reducers, sulfate reducers, and hydrogenotrophic methanogens in bulk peat soil. However, in root zones of graminoids, fermenters thriving on rhizodeposits and root litter might temporarily provide sufficient H2 for acetogens. In the present study, root-free peat soils from around the roots of Molinia caerulea and Carex rostrata (i.e., two graminoids common in fen Schlöpnnerbrunnen) were anoxically incubated with or without supplemental H2 to simulate conditions of high and low H2 availability in the fen. In unsupplemented soil treatments, H2 concentrations were largely below the detection limit (∼10 ppmV) and possibly too low for acetogens and methanogens, an assumption supported by the finding that neither acetate nor methane substantially accumulated. In the presence of supplemental H2, acetate accumulation exceeded CH4 accumulation in Molinia soil whereas acetate and methane accumulated equally in Carex soil. However, reductant recoveries indicated that initially, additional unknown processes were involved either in H2 consumption or the consumption of acetate produced by H2-consuming acetogens. 16S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene analyses revealed that potential acetogens (Clostridium, Holophagaceae), methanogens (Methanocellales, Methanobacterium), iron reducers (Geobacter), and physiologically uncharacterized phylotypes (Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes) were stimulated by supplemental H2 in soil treatments. Phylotypes closely related to clostridial acetogens were also active in soil-free Molinia and Carex root treatments with or without supplemental H2. Due to pronounced fermentation activities, H2 consumption was less obvious in root treatments, and acetogens likely thrived on root organic carbon and fermentation products (e.g., ethanol) in addition to H2. Collectively, the data highlighted that in fen Schlöppnerbrunnen, acetogens are associated to graminoid roots and inhabit the peat soil around the roots, where they have to compete for H2 with methanogens and iron reducers. Furthermore, the study underscored that the metabolically flexible acetogens do not rely on H2, potentially a key advantage over other H2 consumers under the highly dynamic conditions characteristic for the root-zones of graminoids in peatlands.
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In recent years, there has been intense media attention concerning the outbreaks of devastating forest fires in Indonesia. These fires are fueled by forest wood and peat and emit large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. Peatlands are a unique unbalanced ecosystem composed of organic-rich soils and are estimated to store approximately 600 Gt of carbon globally. Tropical peatlands are among the most space-efficient stores of carbon on Earth containing approximately 89 Gt C. Of this, 57 Gt (65%) are stored in Indonesian peatlands. Indonesian peatlands are one of the largest modern day near-surface reservoirs of terrestrial carbon, with accumulation that began as early as 22 thousand years ago and continued throughout the Pleistocene and Holocene. Despite the highly important and relevant carbon pool in peat swamp forests, they are largely neglected when modeling the past and present global carbon cycle. The forested tropical peatlands in Indonesia have been identified as a particularly crucial source of uncertainty in global carbon cycle models. In order to refine predictions of future and past climate change, this research will quantify the release of carbon from the Indonesian peatlands to better explain the effects that excess carbon has on the downstream marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle. Currently, large-scale exploitation of land, including deforestation and drainage for the establishment of oil palm plantations, is changing the carbon balance of Indonesian peatlands, turning them from a previous sink to a source via outgassing of CO2 to the atmosphere and leakage of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) into the coastal ocean. The impacts of this perturbation to the coastal environment and the global climate are largely unknown. I use a biogeochemical box model in combination with novel observations and literature data to investigate the impact of different carbon emission scenarios on the combined ocean-atmosphere system.
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Tropical peatlands of the western part of insular Southeast Asia have experienced extensive land cover changes since 1990. Typically involving drainage, these land cover changes have resulted in increased peat oxidation in the upper peat profile. In this paper we provide current (2015) and cumulative carbon emissions estimates since 1990 from peat oxidation in Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo, utilizing newly published peatland land cover information and the recently agreed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) peat oxidation emission values for tropical peatland areas. Our results highlight the change of one of the Earth's most efficient long-term carbon sinks to a short-term emission source, with cumulative carbon emissions since 1990 estimated to have been in the order of 2.5 Gt C. Current (2015) levels of emissions are estimated at around 146 Mt C yr⁻¹, with a range of 132–159 Mt C yr⁻¹ depending on the selection of emissions factors for different land cover types. 44% (or 64 Mt C yr⁻¹) of the emissions come from industrial plantations (mainly oil palm and Acacia pulpwood), followed by 34% (49 Mt C yr⁻¹) of emissions from small-holder areas. Thus, altogether 78% of current peat oxidation emissions come from managed land cover types. Although based on the latest information, these estimates may still include considerable, yet currently unquantifiable, uncertainties (e.g. due to uncertainties in the extent of peatlands and drainage networks) which need to be focused on in future research. In comparison, fire induced carbon dioxide emissions over the past ten years for the entire equatorial Southeast Asia region have been estimated to average 122 Mt C yr⁻¹ ( The results emphasise that whilst reducing emissions from peat fires is important, urgent efforts are also needed to mitigate the constantly high level of emissions arising from peat drainage, regardless of fire occurrence.
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The majority of the Earth’s terrestrial carbon is stored in the soil. If anthropogenic warming stimulates the loss of this carbon to the atmosphere, it could drive further planetary warming1, 2, 3, 4. Despite evidence that warming enhances carbon fluxes to and from the soil5, 6, the net global balance between these responses remains uncertain. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of warming-induced changes in soil carbon stocks by assembling data from 49 field experiments located across North America, Europe and Asia. We find that the effects of warming are contingent on the size of the initial soil carbon stock, with considerable losses occurring in high-latitude areas. By extrapolating this empirical relationship to the global scale, we provide estimates of soil carbon sensitivity to warming that may help to constrain Earth system model projections. Our empirical relationship suggests that global soil carbon stocks in the upper soil horizons will fall by 30 ± 30 petagrams of carbon to 203 ± 161 petagrams of carbon under one degree of warming, depending on the rate at which the effects of warming are realized. Under the conservative assumption that the response of soil carbon to warming occurs within a year, a business-as-usual climate scenario would drive the loss of 55 ± 50 petagrams of carbon from the upper soil horizons by 2050. This value is around 12–17 per cent of the expected anthropogenic emissions over this period7, 8. Despite the considerable uncertainty in our estimates, the direction of the global soil carbon response is consistent across all scenarios. This provides strong empirical support for the idea that rising temperatures will stimulate the net loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere, driving a positive land carbon–climate feedback that could accelerate climate change.
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Trends in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 during three recent interglacials – the Holocene, the Eemian and Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 11 – are investigated using an earth system model of intermediate complexity, which we extended with process-based modules to consider two slow carbon cycle processes – peat accumulation and shallow-water CaCO3 sedimentation (coral reef formation). For all three interglacials, model simulations considering peat accumulation and shallow-water CaCO3 sedimentation substantially improve the agreement between model results and ice core CO2 reconstructions in comparison to a carbon cycle set-up neglecting these processes. This enables us to model the trends in atmospheric CO2, with modelled trends similar to the ice core data, forcing the model only with orbital and sea level changes. During the Holocene, anthropogenic CO2 emissions are required to match the observed rise in atmospheric CO2 after 3 ka BP but are not relevant before this time. Our model experiments show a considerable improvement in the modelled CO2 trends by the inclusion of the slow carbon cycle processes, allowing us to explain the CO2 evolution during the Holocene and two recent interglacials consistently using an identical model set-up.
Untangling the relationships between morphology and phylogeny is key to building a reliable taxonomy, but is especially challenging for protists, where the existence of cryptic or pseudocryptic species makes finding relevant discriminant traits difficult. Here we use Hyalosphenia papilio (a testate amoeba) as a model species to investigate the contribution of phylogeny and phenotypic plasticity in its morphology. We study the response of Hyalosphenia papilio morphology (shape and pores number) to environmental variables in 1) a manipulative experiment with controlled conditions (water level), 2) an observational study of a withinsite natural ecological gradient (water level), and 3) an observational study across 37 European peatlands (climate). We showed that Hyalosphenia papilio morphology is correlated to environmental conditions (climate and water depth) as well as geography, while no relationship between morphology and phylogeny was brought to light. The relative contribution of genetic inheritance and phenotypic plasticity in shaping morphology varies depending on the taxonomic group and the trait under consideration. Thus, our data call for a reassessment of taxonomy based on morphology alone. This clearly calls for a substantial increase in taxonomic research on these globally still under-studied organisms leading to a reassessment of estimates of global microbial eukaryotic diversity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Peatlands are carbon-rich ecosystems that cover just three per cent of Earth's land surface, but store one-third of soil carbon. Peat soils are formed by the build-up of partially decomposed organic matter under waterlogged anoxic conditions. Most peat is found in cool climatic regions where unimpeded decomposition is slower, but deposits are also found under some tropical swamp forests. Here we present field measurements from one of the world's most extensive regions of swamp forest, the Cuvette Centrale depression in the central Congo Basin. We find extensive peat deposits beneath the swamp forest vegetation (peat defined as material with an organic matter content of at least 65 per cent to a depth of at least 0.3 metres). Radiocarbon dates indicate that peat began accumulating from about 10,600 years ago, coincident with the onset of more humid conditions in central Africa at the beginning of the Holocene. The peatlands occupy large interfluvial basins, and seem to be largely rain-fed and ombrotrophic-like (of low nutrient status) systems. Although the peat layer is relatively shallow (with a maximum depth of 5.9 metres and a median depth of 2.0 metres), by combining in situ and remotely sensed data, we estimate the area of peat to be approximately 145,500 square kilometres (95 per cent confidence interval of 131,900-156,400 square kilometres), making the Cuvette Centrale the most extensive peatland complex in the tropics. This area is more than five times the maximum possible area reported for the Congo Basin in a recent synthesis of pantropical peat extent. We estimate that the peatlands store approximately 30.6 petagrams (30.6 × 10(15) grams) of carbon belowground (95 per cent confidence interval of 6.3-46.8 petagrams of carbon)-a quantity that is similar to the above-ground carbon stocks of the tropical forests of the entire Congo Basin. Our result for the Cuvette Centrale increases the best estimate of global tropical peatland carbon stocks by 36 per cent, to 104.7 petagrams of carbon (minimum estimate of 69.6 petagrams of carbon; maximum estimate of 129.8 petagrams of carbon). This stored carbon is vulnerable to land-use change and any future reduction in precipitation.