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The Carbon Status of Earth's Peatlands
Reference
Beilman, D.W., MacDonald, G.M., Smith, L.C. and Reimer, P.J. 2009. Carbon accumulation in peatlands of West Siberia over the last 2000 years. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 23: 10.1029/2007GB003112.

Background
Global warming-induced thawing of subarctic permafrost has been predicted to turn boreal and tundra biomes into carbon sources extraordinaire. According to this climate-alarmist hypothesis, the exposure and subsequent decay of vast stores of newly-thawed organic matter will release long-sequestered carbon back to the atmosphere as CO2 and methane, possibly freeing enough carbon at a sufficiently rapid rate to rival more direct emissions from anthropogenic sources. The end result of this scenario is envisioned to be a strong positive feedback to the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content, which climate alarmists claim will lead to further warming. But is this contention correct?

What was done
The authors used "a network of cores from 77 peatland sites to determine controls on peat carbon content and peat carbon accumulation over the last 2000 years (since 2 ka) across Russia's West Siberian Lowland," which is the world's largest wetland region.

What was learned
Beilman et al. discovered that "carbon accumulation since 2 ka varies significantly with modern mean annual air temperature" -- it grows ever greater as air temperature rises from -9 to 0C -- "with maximum carbon accumulation found between -1 and 0C," which is "where air-soil temperature differences optimize net primary production relative to soil respiration, e.g., near 0C (Swanson et al., 2000)." On average, in fact, they found that "cores from non-permafrost sites have accumulated four times more peat by depth and twice as much carbon than cores from permafrost sites."

What it means
The four researchers write that the "relationship between temperature and peat carbon sequestration, and the current spatial distribution of peatland ecosystems, should be an important consideration in future attempts to anticipate the impact of climate warming on the carbon sink potential of the West Siberian Lowland region." And what might that impact be? As they describe it -- but with our italics -- "permafrost thaw may promote a boost in peat carbon sequestration in affected sites," and, therefore, they state that "future warming could result in a shift northward in long-term West Siberian Lowland carbon sequestration." Once again, therefore, it would appear that the world's climate alarmists are exactly 180 degrees out of phase with reality with respect to another important aspect of the great "climate crisis" debate.

Reference
Swanson, D.K., Lacelle, B. and Tarnocai, C. 2000. Temperature and the boreal-subarctic maximum in soil organic carbon. Geog. Phys. Quat. 54: 157-167.

Reviewed 8 July 2009