Water loss will exacerbate peatland degradation, resulting in more soil carbon being released as carbon dioxide as surface temperatures rise, suggests a study online this week in Nature Geoscience.
Peatlands store large amounts of carbon owing to the low rates of carbon breakdown in cold, waterlogged soils. Takeshi Ise and colleagues use a soil physical?biogeochemical-coupled model to examine the effect of water table height on peatland decomposition. Lowering the water table increases peat loss, which further enhances water loss, setting in motion a positive feedback that significantly increases decomposition of soil organic carbon under climate change. In a long-term simulation, an experimental warming of 4 degrees Celsius causes soil organic carbon loss of 40% from shallow peat and 86% from deep peat, when these feedbacks are included.
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