Alaskan Peatland Carbon Dynamics During Past Warm Climate Intervals

Zicheng Yu, Julie Loisel, Stephanie Hunt, Eric Klein, Robert Booth, Daniel Brosseau, Joan Ramage, Miriam Jones, Bryan Mark, Qianlai Zhuang, Benjamin Felzer

Proceedings of the 14th International Peat Congress


alaska, carbon-dynamics, climate-change, holocene, peatlands

Yu et al 2012: Alaskan Peatland Carbon Dynamics During Past Warm Climate Intervals


Theme I.  Inventory, stratigraphy and conservation of mires and peatlands


Here we use the results from several projects on Alaskan peatlands to illustrate how peat carbon dynamics have responded to past warm climate intervals. Our thermokarst site in Arctic western Alaska shows rapid peat accumulation during the Bolling-Allerod warm period around 13,000 cal BP. During the Holocene thermal maximum around 10,000 cal BP, several sites in Alaska show about four-fold higher peat accumulation rates than the Holocene average; this rapid vertical growth is synchronous with rapid peatland formation and expansion on the landscape across Alaska. Two sites in the Susitna Basin show large magnitude increases in peat accumulation during the warm Medieval Climate Anomaly around 1000-500 cal BP. Furthermore, some peatlands in the Susitna Basin appear to have grown rapidly over the last several decades, likely in response to recent climate warming. Our evidence from Alaska indicates that peat accumulated rapidly during past warm climates, implying that warmth stimulates greater primary production than peat decomposition.