Canadian Forest Service Publications

Potential vulnerability of deep carbon deposits of forested swamps to drought. Webster, K.L.; Creed, I.; Malakoff, T.; Delaney, K. 2013. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 78:1097-1107.

Year: 2013

Issued by: Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 34826

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

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Plain Language Summary

The objective of this work was to consider the risk of loss of peatland carbon storage with a changing climate. Warmer and possibly drier conditions predicted for the Boreal region will result in lower water tables, which will expose previously protected peat carbon (i.e., peat that had only low rates of decomposition due to saturated conditions as a result of high water tables), to aerobic conditions which could accelerate decomposition, and thereby creating positive feedbacks to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and further warming. The key finding from this lab experiment is that the quality of the peat (i.e., its chemistry) constrains its decomposition upon drying/lower water tables, thus high emission of greenhouse gasses with water table declines are not expected. However, we point out that there are several mechanisms which could alleviate the peat quality constraint, which if overcome could "unlock" these peat carbon stores.