Sensitivity of peatland carbon loss to organic matter quality
Geophysical Research Letters
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Peatland soils store substantial amounts of organic matter (OM). During peat formation, easily decomposable OM is preferentially lost and more recalcitrant moieties accumulate. In a peat profile, OM quality thus scales with depth. Drainage and ongoing climate change poses the risk of rapid OM loss when formerly anoxic peat layers oxidize. During peat decomposition, deeper, more recalcitrant peat is exposed to the oxygen-rich surface, which may influence the decomposition rate. We show that the soil respiration rate of a disturbed temperate peatland is strongly controlled by the peat's quality and especially its polysaccharides content. The polysaccharide content of soil profiles in a wider range of peatland sites with differing degrees of disturbance was inferred by means of solid-state13C NMR and DRIFT spectroscopy. The data confirmed a strong decline in polysaccharide content with depth and a poor OM quality of surface peat in soils drained decades ago. We combined the evidence from respiration and spectroscopic measurements to deduce the sensitivity of peatland carbon loss with respect to OM quality by scaling measured quality to a 142-years record of peatland subsidence and carbon loss at one of the sites. According to the functional relationship between quality and respiration, the measured average annual carbon loss rate of 2.5 t C ha−1 at that site was 20 t C ha−1 at the onset of peatland drainage and dropped to less than 1 t C ha−1 in recent times.
Copyright © 2012. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
This is the published version of the article; Leifeld, J., M. Steffens, and A. Galego-Sala (2012), Sensitivity of peatland carbon loss to organic matter quality, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L14704, doi:10.1029/2012GL051856.
Vol. 39, Iss. 14, L14704