Contemporary carbon fluxes do not reflect the long-term carbon balance for an Atlantic blanket bog

Joshua Ratcliffe, Roxane Andersen, Russell Anderson, Anthony Newton, David Campbell, Dmitri Mauquoy, Richard Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


Peatlands are one of the largest terrestrial stores of carbon. Carbon exchange in peatlands is often assessed solely by measurement of contemporary fluxes; however, these fluxes frequently indicate a much stronger sink strength than that measured by the rate of C accumulation in the peat profile over longer timescales. Here we compare profile-based measurements of C accumulation with the published net ecosystem C balance for the largest peatland area in Britain, the Flow Country of northern Scotland. We estimate the long-term rate of C accumulation to be 15.4 g C m−2 yr−1 for a site where a recent eddy covariance study has suggested contemporary C uptake more than six times greater (99.37 g C m−2 yr−1). Our estimate is supported by two further long-term C accumulation records from nearby sites which give comparable results. We demonstrate that a strong contemporary C sink strength may not equate to a strong long-term sink and explore reasons for this disparity. We recommend that contemporary C sequestration should be viewed in the context of the long-term ecological drivers, such as fires, ecohydrological feedbacks and the changing quality of litter inputs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
Early online date30 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Peatland
  • tephrochronology
  • climate change
  • Carbon cycle

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