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

A. Gallego-Sala, Dan J. Charman, Simon Brewer, Susan Page, I Colin Prentice, Pierre Friedlingstein, Steve Moreton, Matthew J. Amesbury, David W. Beilman, S. Bjorck, Tatiana Blyakharchuk, Christopher Bochicchio, Robert K Booth, J Bunbury, Philip Camill, Donna Carless, Rodney A. Chimner, Michael Clifford, Elizabeth Cressey, Colin John Courtney-MustaphiF. De Vleeschouwer, Rixt de Jong, Barbara Fialkiewicz-Koziel, S Finkelstein, M Garneau, Esther Githumbi, John Hribjlan, James Holmquist, Paul D M Hughes, Chris Jones, Miriam C. Jones, Edgar Karofeld, Eric S. Klein, Ulla Kokfelt, Atte Korhola, Terri Lacourse, Gael Le Roux, Mariusz Lamentowicz, David Large, Martin Lavoie, J Loisel, Helen Mackay, Glen MacDonald, Markku Makila, Gabriel Magnan, Robert Marchant, Katarzyna Marcisz, Antonio Martínez-Cortizas, Charly Massa, Paul Mathijssen, Dmitri Mauquoy, Timothy Mighall, Fraser J. G. Mitchell, Patrick Moss, Jonathan Nichols, POK Oksanen, Lisa Orme, Maara S. Packalen, Stephen J 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 Väliranta, Simon Van Bellen, Marjolein van der Linden, Bas van Geel, Guoping Wang, Zicheng Yu, Joana Zaragoza-Castells, Yan Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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
Issue number10
Early online date10 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

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

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