Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming

Angela V. Gallego-Sala (Corresponding Author), Daniel J. Charman (Corresponding Author), Simon Brewer, Susan E. Page, I. Colin Prentice, Pierre Friedlingstein, Steve Moreton, Matthew J. Amesbury, David W. Beilman, Svante Björck, Tatiana Blyakharchuk, Christopher Bochicchio, Robert K. Booth, Joan Bunbury, Philip Camill, Donna Carless, Rodney A. Chimner, Michael Clifford, Elizabeth Cressey, Colin Courtney-MustaphiFrançois De Vleeschouwer, Rixt de Jong, Barbara Fialkiewicz-Koziel, Sarah A. Finkelstein, Michelle Garneau, Esther Githumbi1, John Hribjlan, James Holmquist, Paul D.M. Hughes, Chris D. Jones, Miriam C. Jones, Edgar Karofeld, Eric S. Klein, Ulla Kokfelt, Atte Korhola, Terri Lacourse, Gael Le Roux, Mariusz Lamentowicz, David Large, Martin Lavoie, Julie Loisel, Helen Mackay, Glen MacDonald, Markku Makila, Gabriel Magnan, Robert Marchant, Katarzyna Marcisz, Antonio Martínez Cortizas, Charly Massa, Paul Mathijssen, Dimitri Mauquoy, Timothy Mighall, Fraser J.G. Mitchell, Patrick Moss, Jonathan E. Nichols, Pirita Oksanen, Lisa Orme, Maara S. Packalen, Stephen Robinson, Thomas P. Roland, Nicole K. Sanderson, A. Britta K. Sannel, Noemí Silva-Sánchez, Natascha Steinberg, Graeme T. Swindles, T. Edward Turner, Joanna Uglow, Minna Valiranta, Simon van Bellen, Marjolein van der Linden, Bas van Geel, Guoping Wang, Zicheng Yu, Joana Zaragoza-Castells, Yan Zhao

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The carbon sink potential of peatlands depends on the balance of carbon uptake by plants and microbial decomposition. The rates of both these processes will increase with warming but it remains unclear which will dominate the global peatland response. Here we examine the global relationship between peatland carbon accumulation rates during the last millennium and planetary-scale climate space. A positive relationship is found between carbon accumulation and cumulative photosynthetically active radiation during the growing season for mid- to high-latitude peatlands in both hemispheres. However, this relationship reverses at lower latitudes, suggesting that carbon accumulation is lower under the warmest climate regimes. Projections under Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP)2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios indicate that the present-day global sink will increase slightly until around AD 2100 but decline thereafter. Peatlands will remain a carbon sink in the future, but their response to warming switches from a negative to a positive climate feedback (decreased carbon sink with warming) at the end of the twenty-first century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-913
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Early online date10 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • peatlands
  • carbon cycle
  • climate change
  • tropical peat
  • last millennium


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