Ecohydrological feedbacks confound peat-based climate reconstructions

Graeme T. Swindles, Paul J. Morris, Andy J. Baird, Maarten Blaauw, Gill Plunkett

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Abstract

Water-table reconstructions from Holocene peatlands are increasingly being used as indicators of terrestrial palaeoclimate in many regions of the world. However, the links between peatland water tables, climate, and long-term peatland development are poorly understood. Here we use a combination of high-resolution proxy climate data and a model of long-term peatland development to examine the relationship between rapid hydrological fluctuations in peatlands and climatic forcing. We show that changes in water-table depth can occur independently of climate forcing. Ecohydrological feedbacks inherent in peatland development can lead to a degree of homeostasis that partially disconnects peatland water-table behaviour from external climatic influences. We conclude by suggesting that further work needs to be done before peat-based climate reconstructions can be used to test climate models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberL11401
Number of pages4
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume39
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 05 Jun 2012

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peat
water tables
peatland
climate
water table
homeostasis
climate models
climate forcing
high resolution
paleoclimate
climate modeling
Holocene

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Swindles, Graeme T. ; Morris, Paul J. ; Baird, Andy J. ; Blaauw, Maarten ; Plunkett, Gill. / Ecohydrological feedbacks confound peat-based climate reconstructions. In: Geophysical Research Letters. 2012 ; Vol. 39, No. 11.
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Ecohydrological feedbacks confound peat-based climate reconstructions. / Swindles, Graeme T.; Morris, Paul J.; Baird, Andy J.; Blaauw, Maarten; Plunkett, Gill.

In: Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 39, No. 11, L11401, 05.06.2012.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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AU - Swindles, Graeme T.

AU - Morris, Paul J.

AU - Baird, Andy J.

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AU - Plunkett, Gill

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N2 - Water-table reconstructions from Holocene peatlands are increasingly being used as indicators of terrestrial palaeoclimate in many regions of the world. However, the links between peatland water tables, climate, and long-term peatland development are poorly understood. Here we use a combination of high-resolution proxy climate data and a model of long-term peatland development to examine the relationship between rapid hydrological fluctuations in peatlands and climatic forcing. We show that changes in water-table depth can occur independently of climate forcing. Ecohydrological feedbacks inherent in peatland development can lead to a degree of homeostasis that partially disconnects peatland water-table behaviour from external climatic influences. We conclude by suggesting that further work needs to be done before peat-based climate reconstructions can be used to test climate models.

AB - Water-table reconstructions from Holocene peatlands are increasingly being used as indicators of terrestrial palaeoclimate in many regions of the world. However, the links between peatland water tables, climate, and long-term peatland development are poorly understood. Here we use a combination of high-resolution proxy climate data and a model of long-term peatland development to examine the relationship between rapid hydrological fluctuations in peatlands and climatic forcing. We show that changes in water-table depth can occur independently of climate forcing. Ecohydrological feedbacks inherent in peatland development can lead to a degree of homeostasis that partially disconnects peatland water-table behaviour from external climatic influences. We conclude by suggesting that further work needs to be done before peat-based climate reconstructions can be used to test climate models.

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