17 Aug 2022
17 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Faded landscape: unravelling peat initiation and lateral expansion at one of NW-Europe’s largest bog remnants

Cindy Quik1, Ype van der Velde2, Jasper H. J. Candel1, Luc Steinbuch1, Roy van Beek1,3, and Jakob Wallinga1 Cindy Quik et al.
  • 1Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 2Faculty of Science, Earth and Climate, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
  • 3Cultural Geography Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Abstract. In the mainland of Northwest Europe generally only remnants of former peat landscapes subsist. Due to the poor preservation of these landscapes, alternative approaches to reconstruct peat initiation and lateral expansion are needed compared to regions with intact peat cover. Here we aim (1) to find explanatory variables within a digital soil mapping approach that allow us to reconstruct the pattern of peat initiation and lateral expansion within (and potentially beyond) peat remnants, and (2) to reconstruct peat initiation ages and lateral expansion for one of the largest bog remnants of the Northwest European mainland, the Fochteloërveen. Basal radiocarbon dates were obtained from the peat remnant, which formed the basis for subsequent analyses. We investigated the relationship between peat initiation age and three potential covariates: (1) total thickness of organic deposits, (2) elevation of the Pleistocene mineral surface that underlies the organic deposits, and (3) a constructed variable representing groundwater-fed wetness based on elevation of the mineral surface and current hydraulic head. Significant relationships were found with covariate (1) and (3), which were hence used for subsequent modelling. Our results indicate simultaneous peat initiation at several loci in the Fochteloërveen during the Early Holocene, and continuous lateral expansion until 900 cal y BP. Lateral expansion accelerated between 5,500–3,500 cal y BP. Our approach is spatially explicit (i.e., results in a map of peat initiation ages), and allows for a quantitative evaluation of the prediction using the standard deviation and comparison of predictions with validation points. The applied method based on covariate (1) is only useful where remnant peat survived, whereas covariate (3) may ultimately be applied to reconstruct peat initiation ages and lateral peatland expansion beyond the limits of peat remnants.

Cindy Quik et al.

Status: open (extended)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on bg-2022-162', Anonymous Referee #1, 29 Sep 2022 reply

Cindy Quik et al.

Cindy Quik et al.


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Short summary
In NW-Europe only parts of former peatlands remain. The timing when these peatlands formed is not well-known, but relevant for questions on landscape, climate, and archaeology. We investigated the age of Fochteloërveen, using radiocarbon dating and modelling. Results show that peat initiated at several sites 11,000–7,000 years ago, and expanded rapidly 5,000 years ago. Our approach may ultimately be applied to model peat ages outside current remnants, and provide a view of these lost landscapes.