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

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Publication details

JournalNature Climate Change
DateAccepted/In press - 7 Aug 2018
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 10 Sep 2018
Number of pages8
Early online date10/09/18
Original languageEnglish


The carbon sink potential of peatlands depends on the balance between 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 RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios indicate that the present-day global sink will increase slightly until ~2100 AD 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 21st century.

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© 2018, Springer Nature. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

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

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