Insights and issues with estimating northern peatland carbon stocks and fluxes since the Last Glacial Maximum Academic Article uri icon


  • 2016 Elsevier B.V. In this review paper, we identify and address key uncertainties related to four local and global controls of Holocene northern peatland carbon stocks and fluxes. First, we provide up-to-date estimates of the current northern peatland area (3.2Mkm2) and propose a novel approach to reconstruct changes in the northern peatland area over time (Section 2). Second, we review the key methods and models that have been used to quantify total carbon stocks and methane emissions over time at the hemispheric scale, and offer new research directions to improve these calculations (Section 3). Our main proposed improvement relates to allocating different carbon stock and emission values for each of the two dominant vegetation assemblages (sedge and brown moss-dominated vs. Sphagnum-dominated peat). Third, we discuss and quantify the importance of basin heterogeneity in estimating peat volume at the local scale (Section 4.1). We also highlight the importance of age model selection when reconstructing carbon accumulation rates from a peat core (Section 4.2). Lastly, we introduce the role of biogeomorphological agents such as beaver activity in controlling carbon dynamics (Section 5.1) and review the newest research related to permafrost thaw (Section 5.2) and peat fire (Section 5.3) under climate change. Overall, this review summarizes new information from a broad range of peat-carbon studies, provides novel analysis of hemispheric-scale paleo datasets, and proposes new insights on how to translate peat-core data into carbon fluxes. It also identifies critical data gaps and research priorities, and many ways to consider and address them.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 5.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Loisel, J., van Bellen, S., Pelletier, L., Talbot, J., Hugelius, G., Karran, D., ... Holmquist, J.

citation count

  • 62

complete list of authors

  • Loisel, Julie||van Bellen, Simon||Pelletier, Luc||Talbot, Julie||Hugelius, Gustaf||Karran, Daniel||Yu, Zicheng||Nichols, Jonathan||Holmquist, James

publication date

  • January 2017