Carbon accumulation in peatlands of West Siberia over the last 2000 years

David W. Beilman, Glen M. MacDonald, Laurence C. Smith, Paula J. Reimer

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115 Citations (Scopus)


We use a network of cores from 77 peatland sites to determine controls on peat C content and peat C accumulation over the last 2000 years (since 2 ka) across Russia's West Siberian Lowland (WSL), the world's largest wetland region. Our results show a significant influence of fossil plant composition on peat C content, with peats dominated by Sphagnum having a lower C content. Radiocarbon-derived C accumulation since 2 ka at 23 sites is highly variable from site to site, but displays a significant N–S trend of decreasing accumulation at higher latitudes. Northern WSL peatlands show relatively small C accumulation of 7 to 35 kg C m-2 since 2 ka. In contrast, peatlands south of 60°N show larger accumulation of 42 to 88 kg C m-2. Carbon accumulation since 2 ka varies significantly with modern mean annual air temperature, with maximum C accumulation found between -1 and 0°C. Rates of apparent C accumulation since 2 ka show no significant relationship to long-term Holocene averages based on total C accumulation. A GIS-based extrapolation of our site data suggests that a substantial amount (~40%) of total WSL peat C has accumulated since 2 ka, with much of this accumulation south of 60°N. The large peatlands in the southern WSL may be an important component of the Eurasian terrestrial C sink, and future warming could result in a shift northward in long-term WSL C sequestration.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberGB1012
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Global and Planetary Change


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