A database and synthesis of northern peatland soil properties and Holocene carbon and nitrogen accumulation

Julie Loisel*, Zicheng Yu, David W. Beilman, Philip Camill, Jukka Alm, Matthew J. Amesbury, David Anderson, Sofia Andersson, Christopher Bochicchio, Keith Barber, Lisa R. Belyea, Joan Bunbury, Frank M. Chambers, Daniel J. Charman, Francois De Vleeschouwer, Barbara Fialkiewicz-Koziel, Sarah A. Finkelstein, Mariusz Galka, Michelle Garneau, Dan HammarlundWilliam Hinchcliffe, James Holmquist, Paul Hughes, Miriam C. Jones, Eric S. Klein, Ulla Kokfelt, Atte Korhola, Peter Kuhry, Alexandre Lamarre, Mariusz Lamentowicz, David Large, Martin Lavoie, Glen MacDonald, Gabriel Magnan, Markku Makila, Gunnar Mallon, Paul Mathijssen, Dmitri Mauquoy, Julia McCarroll, Tim R. Moore, Jonathan Nichols, Benjamin O'Reilly, Pirita Oksanen, Maara Packalen, Dorothy Peteet, Pierre J. H. Richard, Stephen Robinson, Tiina Ronkainen, Mats Rundgren, A. Britta K. Sannel, Charles Tarnocai, Tim Thom, Eeva-Stiina Tuittila, Merritt Turetsky, Minna Valiranta, Marjolein van der Linden, Bas van Geel, Simon van Bellen, Dale Vitt, Yan Zhao, Weijian Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

338 Citations (Scopus)


Here, we present results from the most comprehensive compilation of Holocene peat soil properties with associated carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates for northern peatlands. Our database consists of 268 peat cores from 215 sites located north of 45 degrees N. It encompasses regions within which peat carbon data have only recently become available, such as the West Siberia Lowlands, the Hudson Bay Lowlands, Kamchatka in Far East Russia, and the Tibetan Plateau. For all northern peatlands, carbon content in organic matter was estimated at 42 +/- 3% (standard deviation) for Sphagnum peat, 51 +/- 2% for non-Sphagnum peat, and at 49 +/- 2% overall. Dry bulk density averaged 0.12 +/- 0.07 g/cm(3), organic matter bulk density averaged 0.11 +/- 0.05 g/cm(3), and total carbon content in peat averaged 47 +/- 6%. In general, large differences were found between Sphagnum and non-Sphagnum peat types in terms of peat properties. Time-weighted peat carbon accumulation rates averaged 23 +/- 2 (standard error of mean) g C/m(2)/yr during the Holocene on the basis of 151 peat cores from 127 sites, with the highest rates of carbon accumulation (25-28 g C/m(2)/yr) recorded during the early Holocene when the climate was warmer than the present. Furthermore, we estimate the northern peatland carbon and nitrogen pools at 436 and 10 gigatons, respectively. The database is publicly available at https://peatlands.lehigh.edu.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1028-1042
Number of pages15
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number9
Early online date3 Jul 2014
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014


  • biogeochemical cycles
  • climate change
  • data synthesis
  • long-term ecosystem dynamics
  • northern peatlands
  • soil carbon and nitrogen
  • West-Central Canada
  • lateral expansion
  • thermal maximum
  • climate system
  • raised bog
  • dynamics
  • permafrost
  • patterns
  • America
  • storage


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