Articles | Volume 5, issue 4
11 Nov 2009
 | 11 Nov 2009

The importance of Northern Peatlands in global carbon systems during the Holocene

Y. Wang, N. T. Roulet, S. Frolking, and L. A. Mysak

Abstract. We applied an inverse model to simulate global carbon (C) cycle dynamics during the Holocene period using atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations reconstructed from Antarctic ice cores and prescribed C accumulation rates of Northern Peatlands (NP) as inputs. Previous studies indicated that different sources could contribute to the 20 parts per million by volume (ppmv) atmospheric CO2 increase over the past 8000 years. These sources of C include terrestrial release of 40–200 petagram C (PgC, 1 petagram=1015 gram), deep oceanic adjustment to a 500 PgC terrestrial biomass buildup early in this interglacial period, and anthropogenic land-use and land-cover changes of unknown magnitudes. Our study shows that the prescribed peatland C accumulation significantly modifies our previous understanding of Holocene C cycle dynamics. If the buildup of the NP is considered, the terrestrial pool becomes the C sink of about 160–280 PgC over the past 8000 years, and the only C source for the terrestrial and atmospheric C increases is presumably from the deep ocean due to calcium carbonate compensation. Future studies need to be conducted to constrain the basal times and growth rates of the NP C accumulation in the Holocene. These research endeavors are challenging because they need a dynamically-coupled peatland simulator to be constrained with the initiation time and reconstructed C reservoir of the NP. Our results also suggest that the huge reservoir of deep ocean C explains the major variability of the glacial-interglacial C cycle dynamics without considering the anthropogenic C perturbation.

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