Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 9, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 9, 2711–2717, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 9, 2711–2717, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 25 Jul 2012

Research article | 25 Jul 2012

A high-resolution record of carbon accumulation rates during boreal peatland initiation

I. F. Pendea1,* and G. L. Chmura1 I. F. Pendea and G. L. Chmura
  • 1Department of Geography, McGill University & Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre, Quebec, Canada
  • *now at: Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, Lakehead University – Orillia Campus, Orillia, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. Boreal peatlands are a major global C sink, thus having important feedbacks to climate. A decreased concentration in atmospheric CO2 7000–10 000 yr ago has been linked to variations in peatland C accumulation rates attributed to a warm climate and increased productivity. Yet, this period also corresponds to early stages of peatland development (as peatland was expanding) following retreat of ice sheets and increases in C storage could be associated with wetland evolution via lake filling or following marine shoreline emergence. Unravelling past links amongst peatland dynamics, C storage, and climate will help us assess potential feedbacks from future changes in these systems, but most studies are hampered by low temporal resolution. Here we provide a decadal scale C accumulation record for a fen that has begun transformation from salt marsh within the last 70 yr on the isostatically rebounding coast of James Bay, Québec. We determined time frames for wetland stages using palynological analyses to reconstruct ecological change and 210Pb and 137Cs to date the deposit. The average short-term C accumulation rates during the low and high tidal marsh and incipient fen stage (42, 87 and 182 g C m−2 yr−1, respectively) were as much as six times higher than the global long-term (millennial) average for northern peatlands. We suggest that the atmospheric CO2 flux during the early Holocene could be attributed, in part, to wetland evolution associated with isostatic rebound, which makes land for new wetland formation. Future climate warming will increase eustatic sea level, decrease rates of land emergence and formation of new coastal wetlands, ultimately decreasing rates of C storage of wetlands on rebounding coastlines.

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