U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Dual Controls on Carbon Loss During Drought in Peatlands
Published: May 11, 2015
Posted: November 25, 2015

Peatlands store a third of global soil carbon. Drought and drainage coupled with climate warming present the main threat to these stores. Hence, understanding drought effects and inherent feedbacks related to peat decomposition has been a primary global challenge. However, widely divergent results in recent studies concerning drought effects challenge the accepted paradigm that waterlogging and associated anoxia are the overarching controls locking up carbon stored in peat. By linking field and microcosm experiments, a recent study shows how previously unrecognized mechanisms regulate the buildup of phenolics, which protects stored carbon directly by reducing phenol oxidase activity during short-term drought and, indirectly, through a shift from low-phenolic Sphagnum and herbs to high-phenolic shrubs after long-term moderate drought. The study demonstrates that shrub expansion induced by drought and warming in boreal peatlands might be a long-term, self-adaptive mechanism not only increasing carbon sequestration but also potentially protecting historic soil carbon. The researchers propose that the projected “positive feedback loop” between carbon emissions and drought in peatlands may not occur in the long term.

Reference: Wang, H., C. J. Richardson, and M. Ho. 2015. “Dual Controls on Carbon Loss During Drought in Peatlands,” Nature Climate Change 5(6), 584–87. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2643. (Reference link)

Contact: Jared DeForest, SC-23, (301) 903-3251, Daniel Stover, SC-23.1, (301) 903-0289
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)