Title: The future of northern peatlands: waking up a sleeping giant and setting it on fire
Abstract: Northern peatlands cover an area seven times greater than the size of California, and have throughout the Holocene accumulated thick peat soils that hold globally significant stores of carbon, nutrients, and contaminants such as mercury. Rapid climate change, including intensifying fire regimes and accelerating permafrost thaw, is changing the hydrology, ecology, and biogeochemistry of peatlands. Over the last few years, our research group has been studying peatlands in the discontinuous permafrost zone of western Canada, studying impacts of climate change on soil carbon storage, greenhouse gas exchange, and the downstream transport of carbon, nutrients, and mercury. Peatlands in this region are a fine-scale mosaic of different landforms; with permafrost affected peat plateaus, non-permafrost bogs and fens, and shallow ponds. In order to understand the regional effects of climate change, our research shows that it is imperative to understand the impacts on each constituent peatland landform. Our research has implications both for local concerns of water quality and traditional land use, and for our understanding of global climate feedbacks through exchange of greenhouse gases.