Changes in biomass, aboveground net primary production, and peat accumulation following permafrost thaw in the boreal peatlands of Manitoba, Canada


Journal Article

Permafrost thaw resulting from climate warming may dramatically change the succession and carbon dynamics of northern ecosystems. To examine the joint effects of regional temperature and local species changes on peat accumulation following thaw, we studied peat accumulation across a regional gradient of mean annual temperature (MAT). We measured aboveground net primary production (AGNPP) and decomposition over 2 years for major functional groups and used these data to calculate a simple index of net annual aboveground peat accumulation. In addition, we collected cores from six adjacent frozen and thawed bog sites to document peat accumulation changes following thaw over the past 200 years. Aboveground biomass and decomposition were more strongly controlled by local succession than regional climate. AGNPP for some species differed between collapse scars and associated permafrost plateaus and was influenced by regional MAT. A few species, such as Picea mariana trees on frozen bogs and Sphagnum mosses in thawed bogs, sequestered a disproportionate amount of peat; in addition, changes in their abundance following thaw changed peat accumulation. 210pb-dated cores indicated that peat accumulation doubles following thaw and that the accumulation rate is affected by historical changes in species during succession. Peat accumulation in boreal peatlands following thaw was controlled by a complex mix of local vegetation changes, regional climate, and history. These results suggest that northern ecosystems may show responses more complex than large releases of carbon during transient warming.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Camill, P; Lynch, JA; Clark, JS; Adams, JB; Jordan, B

Published Date

  • September 22, 2001

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 4 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 461 - 478

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1432-9840

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10021-001-0022-3

Citation Source

  • Scopus