Biogeophysical impacts of peatland forestation on regional climate changes in Finland
Abstract. Land cover changes can impact the climate by influencing the surface energy and water balance. Naturally treeless or sparsely treed peatlands were extensively drained to stimulate forest growth in Finland over the second half of 20th century. The aim of this study is to investigate the biogeophysical effects of peatland forestation on regional climate in Finland. Two sets of 18-year climate simulations were done with the regional climate model REMO by using land cover data based on pre-drainage (1920s) and post-drainage (2000s) Finnish national forest inventories. In the most intensive peatland forestation area, located in the middle west of Finland, the results show a warming in April of up to 0.43 K in monthly-averaged daily mean 2 m air temperature, whereas a slight cooling from May to October of less than 0.1 K in general is found. Consequently, snow clearance days over that area are advanced up to 5 days in the mean of 15 years. No clear signal is found for precipitation. Through analysing the simulated temperature and energy balance terms, as well as snow depth over five selected subregions, a positive feedback induced by peatland forestation is found between decreased surface albedo and increased surface air temperature in the snow-melting period. Our modelled results show good qualitative agreements with the observational data. In general, decreased surface albedo in the snow-melting period and increased evapotranspiration in the growing period are the most important biogeophysical aspects induced by peatland forestation that cause changes in climate. The results from this study can be further integrally analysed with biogeochemical effects of peatland forestation to provide background information for adapting future forest management to mitigate climate warming effects. Moreover, they provide insights about the impacts of projected forestation of tundra at high latitudes due to climate change.