Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog

Joshua Ratcliffe, Roxane Andersen, Russell Anderson, Anthony Newton, David Campbell, Dimitri Mauquoy, Richard Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Peatlands are one of the largest terrestrial stores of carbon. Carbon exchange in peatlands is often assessed solely by measurement of contemporary fluxes; however, these fluxes frequently indicate a much stronger sink strength than that measured by the rate of C accumulation in the peat profile over longer timescales. Here we compare profile-based measurements of C accumulation with the published net ecosystem C balance for the largest peatland area in Britain, the Flow Country of northern Scotland. We estimate the long-term rate of C accumulation to be 15.4 g C m−2 yr−1 for a site where a recent eddy covariance study has suggested contemporary C uptake more than six times greater (99.37 g C m−2 yr−1). Our estimate is supported by two further long-term C accumulation records from nearby sites which give comparable results. We demonstrate that a strong contemporary C sink strength may not equate to a strong long-term sink and explore reasons for this disparity. We recommend that contemporary C sequestration should be viewed in the context of the long-term ecological drivers, such as fires, ecohydrological feedbacks and the changing quality of litter inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalThe Holocene
Volume28
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jun 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

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blanket bog
carbon balance
carbon flux
peatland
carbon
eddy covariance
carbon sequestration
peat
litter
timescale
Carbon
Blanket
ecosystem
rate

Keywords

  • Flow Country
  • ITRAX
  • core-scanning
  • LORCA
  • peat
  • tephrochronology
  • Scotland

Cite this

Ratcliffe, J., Andersen, R., Anderson, R., Newton, A., Campbell, D., Mauquoy, D., & Payne, R. (2018). Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog. The Holocene, 28(1), 140-149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959683617715689

Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog. / Ratcliffe, Joshua; Andersen, Roxane; Anderson, Russell; Newton, Anthony; Campbell, David; Mauquoy, Dimitri; Payne, Richard.

In: The Holocene, Vol. 28, No. 1, 01.2018, p. 140-149.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Ratcliffe, J, Andersen, R, Anderson, R, Newton, A, Campbell, D, Mauquoy, D & Payne, R 2018, 'Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog', The Holocene, vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 140-149. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959683617715689
Ratcliffe, Joshua ; Andersen, Roxane ; Anderson, Russell ; Newton, Anthony ; Campbell, David ; Mauquoy, Dimitri ; Payne, Richard. / Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog. In: The Holocene. 2018 ; Vol. 28, No. 1. pp. 140-149.
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abstract = "Peatlands are one of the largest terrestrial stores of carbon. Carbon exchange in peatlands is often assessed solely by measurement of contemporary fluxes; however, these fluxes frequently indicate a much stronger sink strength than that measured by the rate of C accumulation in the peat profile over longer timescales. Here we compare profile-based measurements of C accumulation with the published net ecosystem C balance for the largest peatland area in Britain, the Flow Country of northern Scotland. We estimate the long-term rate of C accumulation to be 15.4 g C m−2 yr−1 for a site where a recent eddy covariance study has suggested contemporary C uptake more than six times greater (99.37 g C m−2 yr−1). Our estimate is supported by two further long-term C accumulation records from nearby sites which give comparable results. We demonstrate that a strong contemporary C sink strength may not equate to a strong long-term sink and explore reasons for this disparity. We recommend that contemporary C sequestration should be viewed in the context of the long-term ecological drivers, such as fires, ecohydrological feedbacks and the changing quality of litter inputs.",
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