Dual controls on carbon loss during drought in peatlands
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© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Peatlands store one-third of global soil carbon. Drought/drainage coupled with climate warming present the main threat to these stores. Hence, understanding drought effects and inherent feedbacks related to peat decomposition has been a primary global challenge. However, widely divergent results concerning drought in recent studies challenge the accepted paradigm that waterlogging and associated anoxia are the overarching controls locking up carbon stored in peat. Here, by linking field and microcosm experiments, we show how previously unrecognized mechanisms regulate the build-up of phenolics, which protects stored carbon directly by reducing phenol oxidase activity during short-term drought and, indirectly, through a shift from low-phenolic Sphagnum/herbs to high-phenolic shrubs after long-term moderate drought. We demonstrate that shrub expansion induced by drought/warming in boreal peatlands might be a long-term self-adaptive mechanism not only increasing carbon sequestration but also potentially protecting historic soil carbon. We therefore propose that the projected 'positive feedback loop'between carbon emission and drought in peatlands may not occur in the long term.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1038/nclimate2643
Publication InfoHo, Mengchi; Richardson, Curtis J; & Wang, Hongjun (2015). Dual controls on carbon loss during drought in peatlands. Nature Climate Change, 5(6). pp. 584-587. 10.1038/nclimate2643. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10161/15705.
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John O. Blackburn Professor
Curtis J. Richardson is Professor of Resource Ecology and founding Director of the Duke University Wetland Center in the Nicholas School of the Environment. Dr. Richardson earned his degrees from the State University of New York and the University of Tennessee. His research interests in applied ecology focus on long-term ecosystem response to large-scale perturbations such as climate change, toxic materials, trace metals, flooding, or nutrient additions. He has specific interests in phosphor
Research Scientist, Senior
My research focuses on C,N,P biogeochemical cycles and the related ecological processes in wetlands, how these key elements dynamically respond to climate change, and how we can use the biogeochemical features to improve the ecological resilience and resistance to climate change and human disturbance, thus mitigating environmental challenges. I also expand my basic research in peatlands to degraded farms and put the resilient mechanism in practice to improve sustainable food, water and agri
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