Phosphorus supply affects long-term carbon accumulation in mid-latitude ombrotrophic peatlands

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Daniel Schillereff, Richard Chiverrell, Jenny Sjöström, Malin Kylander, John Boyle, Jessica Davies, Hannah Toberman, Edward Tipping


Ombrotrophic peatlands are a globally important carbon store and depend on atmospheric nutrient deposition to balance ecosystem productivity and microbial decomposition. Human activities have increased atmospheric nutrient fluxes, but the impacts of variability in phosphorus supply on carbon sequestration in ombrotrophic peatlands are unclear. Here, we synthesise phosphorus, nitrogen and carbon stoichiometric data in the surface and deeper layers of mid-latitude Sphagnum-dominated peatlands across Europe, North America and Chile. We find that long-term elevated phosphorus deposition and accumulation strongly correlate with increased organic matter decomposition and lower carbon accumulation in the catotelm. This contrasts with literature that finds short-term increases in phosphorus supply stimulates rapid carbon accumulation, suggesting phosphorus deposition imposes a threshold effect on net ecosystem productivity and carbon burial. We suggest phosphorus supply is an important, but overlooked, factor governing long-term carbon storage in ombrotrophic peatlands, raising the prospect that post-industrial phosphorus deposition may degrade this carbon sink.



Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences


Holocene, Peatland ecology, Peatland biogeochemistry


Published: 2021-03-12 20:19

Last Updated: 2021-12-11 01:19

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Comment #24 Daniel Schillereff @ 2021-04-07 18:14

Dear Leszek,

Many thanks for your comment and pointers to those papers, they are new to me.

Best wishes, Daniel

Comment #18 Leszek A Bledzki @ 2021-04-01 00:07

Hi it is interesting paper, however helpful, would be also another two papers dealing with P and Rotifers - missing in almost all P budget calculations.
Błędzki, L. A., et al. (2020). "Nutrient addition increases rotifer abundance and diversity in a temperate bog." Fundamental and Applied Limnology 194(2): 77-83
Błędzki, L. A., et al. (2018). "Ecology of rotifers and their unappreciated source of nitrogen and phosphorus in temperate northeastern American bogs." Fundamental and Applied Limnology 191(4): 277-287.
Leszek Bledzki