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The Fate of Boreal Peatland Carbon in a Warming World

Loisel, J. and Yu, Z. 2013. Recent acceleration of carbon accumulation in a boreal peatland, south central Alaska. Journal of Geophysical Research (Biogeosciences) 118: 41-53.
According to Loisel and Yu (2013), "the ongoing warming in high-latitude regions may be causing rapid changes in the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems," noting that "of particular concern is the fate of belowground soil organic carbon stored in peat-accumulating wetlands, as these large carbon pools are sensitive to temperature and moisture conditions." In fact, most climate alarmists are convinced that warming peatlands will indeed release much of their stored carbon back to the atmosphere in the form of CO2, thereby providing a strong positive feedback to anthropogenic CO2-induced global warming.

In a test of this hypothesis, fifteen peat cores were collected in 2008 and 2009 from different portions of the Petersville Peatland in the Susitna River basin of south-central Alaska, two of which were used to determine millennial- and decadal-scale variability in peat carbon accumulation rates, where the peat core chronology was established using accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon and lead-210 dating methods, as well as their identification of the presence of three temporally-well-constrained tephra layers.

Loisel and Yu observed a widespread shift from herbaceous Carex fen peat to Sphagnum moss peat around 100 years ago, following the demise of the Little Ice Age, which was accompanied by a sharp increase in carbon accumulation rate. In fact, they report that "the observed apparent carbon accumulate rates over the past 100 years were almost ten times greater than those over the past 4000 years."

In the concluding words of the two researchers, "these results are contrary to the widespread notion that higher temperature will increase peat decay and associated carbon dioxide release from peatlands to the atmosphere, contributing to the positive carbon cycle-climate feedback to global warming." Indeed, just the opposite appears to be the case in the real world of nature.

Archived 9 October 2013