Lability of organic carbon stored in permafrost peatlands

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Biosciences


One third of the global soil carbon is stored in northern peatlands. Today, the organic carbon stored in peatlands in permafrost regions, is under threat from climate warming. If the decomposition rates of the soil organic carbon increases, in response to increased temperature and altered hydrology (due to melting permafrost), potentially large quantities of carbon dioxide could enter the atmosphere. In order to understand the potential feed backs from northern peatlands to the climate system it is essential to understand the mechanisms that control soil organic carbon decomposition rates. Currently, poor information of soil organic carbon chemistry and how it is related to potential carbon loss from high latitude ecosystems limits our ability to understand the fate of this globally important carbon pool. This study will combine field measurement of carbon dioxide in subarctic peatlands, laboratory experiments, and sophisticated analysis of the carbon chemistry by solid state 13C NMR. This approach will unravel the role of soil carbon chemistry for carbon dioxide emissions from permafrost peatlands. This work would be a first step towards predicting carbon losses from permafrost peatlands based on mechanistic understanding of the decomposability of the soil organic carbon.


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Description We have quantified the labile (decomposable) fraction of permafrost peat soil and found that the size of this fraction determines CO2 but not CH4 emissions. Also the peat organic chemistry determines the composition of the microbial community.
Exploitation Route The data will be useful to the modelling community.
Sectors Environment