Experimental evidence for sustained carbon sequestration in fire-managed, peat moorlands

Marrs, R.H.; Marsland, E.-L.; Lingard, R.; Appleby, P.G.; Piliposyan, G.T.; Rose, R.J.; O’Reilly, J.; Milligan, G.; Allen, K.A.; Alday, J.G.; Santana, V.; Lee, H.; Halsall, K.; Chiverrell, R.C.. 2019 Experimental evidence for sustained carbon sequestration in fire-managed, peat moorlands. Nature Geoscience, 12 (2). 108-112.

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Peat moorlands are important habitats in the boreal region, where they store approximately 30% of the global soil carbon (C). Prescribed burning on peat is a very contentious management strategy, widely linked with loss of carbon. Here, we quantify the effects of prescribed burning for lightly managed boreal moorlands and show that the impacts on peat and C accumulation rates are not as bad as is widely thought. We used stratigraphical techniques within a unique replicated ecological experiment with known burn frequencies to quantify peat and C accumulation rates (0, 1, 3 and 6 managed burns since around 1923). Accumulation rates were typical of moorlands elsewhere, and were reduced significantly only in the 6-burn treatment. However, impacts intensified gradually with burn frequency; each additional burn reduced the accumulation rates by 4.9 g m−2 yr−1 (peat) and 1.9 g C cm−2 yr−1, but did not prevent accumulation. Species diversity and the abundance of peat-forming species also increased with burn frequency. Our data challenge widely held perceptions that a move to 0 burning is essential for peat growth, and show that appropriate prescribed burning can both mitigate wildfire risk in a warmer world and produce relatively fast peat growth and sustained C sequestration.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1752-0894
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Publisher link (see Related URLs) provides a read-only full-text copy of the published paper.
Additional Keywords: conservation, Ellenberg values, fire, functional types, blanket bog, biodiversity, biogeochemistry, boreal ecology, climate-change ecology, ecology
NORA Subject Terms: Earth Sciences
Ecology and Environment
Related URLs:
Date made live: 18 Dec 2018 14:39 +0 (UTC)

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