Plot of observed data shows increased carbon loss as temperature is experimentally increased
Measured changes in net carbon exchange (black circles) in a Minnesota bog showed increasing carbon losses (bigger negative values) as temperature was experimentally increased. The ELM-SPRUCE model simulated this loss well under ambient CO2 conditions (open diamonds and dashed gray line), but the same model for elevated CO2 predicted carbon gains that did not occur (open triangles and solid gray line). Credit: Hanson et al., 2020, Figure 5
Source: AGU Advances

Boreal peatlands store large stocks of soil carbon that are subject to decomposition as the region undergoes above-average warming compared to the global mean. Hanson et al. [2020] employed novel technologies to warm both above- and below-ground parts of the ecosystem, both with and without elevated CO2. Not surprisingly, carbon was lost with warming, but contrary to model predictions, the elevated CO2 treatment had minor effects. We learn new insights when models fail. In this case, it appears that the dominant plants of these northern Minnesota bogs do not respond significantly to CO2 enhancement, as most plant models predict. Revised models for this important biome now need to be tested at other sites to improve further our understanding of the likely carbon losses that could contribute to accelerating the rate of climate change.

Citation: Hanson, P, Griffiths, N., Iversen, C., Norby, R., Sebestyen, S., Phillips, J., et al. [2020]. Rapid Net Carbon Loss From A Whole-Ecosystem Warmed Peatland. AGU Advances, 1, e2020AV000163.

—Eric A. Davidson, Editor, AGU Advances

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