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C-PEAT scientific goals

Phase 2 (2019-2022)

Peatlands are a cornerstone of the global climate system on long-term scales via their role in the carbon cycle. Therefore the C-PEAT working group goals in Phase 2 were:

1. Expand the C-PEAT database to the tropics and extra-tropics, where humans are a major agent of change in tropical peatlands.

Our team focused its effort on (a) quantifying carbon stocks and fluxes, (b) evaluating peatland ecosystem services, and (c) measuring the impact of land management on peatlands.

A paleo perspective is essential to develop a better functional understanding of these ecosystems, compare their dynamics with those from the more intensely studied northern peatlands, and assess their role in global carbon cycling.

2. Predict peatland responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbance.

"Sensitive processes" such as (a) peatland dynamics that govern decadal-scale vertical peat accumulation and net carbon balance, and (b) margin dynamics that control horizontal peat development (expansion vs. contraction) need to be further connected to disturbance regime including fire, permafrost thaw, invasion by new species, drainage, prescribed burning, and other land management scenarios.

Here, the paleo perspective acquired during Phase I was used to compare and contrast the importance of climatic forcings, environmental controls, and land management on peat formation and carbon sequestration.

3. Further develop and promote the use of multi-proxy peatland records as paleoclimatic archives.

The peat cores included in the C-PEAT database could be used in conjunction with those from other archives such as lake sediments, tree rings and ice cores. There is an array of traditional and novel peat-based proxies for temperature and hydrology, including: (a) compound-specific stable isotope measurements to reconstruct rainfall regimes, and (b) novel organic biomarkers (e.g., GDGTs) that are sensitive to temperature and pH, or that provide insight into the carbon cycle (e.g., amino acids).

The integration of more traditional proxies (plant macrofossils, testate amoebae) into process-based peat models such as DigiBog and the Holocene Peat Model is also pursued to further understand the encoding of proxies into the peat matrix over time.

Phase 1 (2014-2017)

The formation of the C-PEAT WG followed on from two workshops, the first at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in October 2013, (report) and another in San Francisco, California in December 2013, as well as previous community-wide synthesis effort on the last millennium. These two recent workshops aimed to synthesize peat C records from circum-Arctic peatlands during the Holocene. The WG plans to expand community-wide synthesis efforts both in space and time.


The WG will bring international peatland C researchers together to focus on an important global-change question, that is, how has the very large peatland C pool accumulated since the Last Glacial Maximum and what is its climate sensitivity at global and regional scales?

Furthermore, how much C existed in peatlands and other peat deposits during pre-Holocene warm intervals and what were their impact on Earth’s carbon cycle and climate?
To address these questions, the long-term goals of C-PEAT WG are to:

1. Compile and synthesize peat C accumulation data and knowledge to improve understanding of peat C dynamics at global scale during the Holocene and beyond,

2. Establish an international network of peat C researchers and facilitate their interactions and collaborations, also with carbon cycle modelers, and

3. Develop and maintain a public database for synthesis and modeling analysis.

Planned activities

Specific planned activities and objectives include:

- Peat accumulation and expansion in the Antarctic: a workshop is planned for fall 2014 to identify key questions and future research directions

- Continuation of circum-Arctic peatland synthesis, including focus on spatial patterns and peatland lateral expansion process/history

- Synthesis of peat accumulation records in tropical and southern peatlands and approaching an update of global peatland synthesis

- Data and model inter-comparison analysis, especially during the last millennium at global scale

- Estimation of peat C pools during pre-Holocene warm climates periods

Topical Groups

C-PEAT has set up the the following topical groups for the current phase:
1. Tropical peatlands
2. Permafrost peat C stock
3. Lost peats underwater or on land
4. Peat during glacial-interglacial cycle
5. Pre-Quaternary peats
6. Data analysis methods
7. Peatland process modeling

Contact details for the leaders of each of these groups can be found under C-PEAT People.