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Global-scale pattern of peatland Sphagnum growth driven by photosynthetically active radiation and growing season length

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Author(s): J. Loisel | A. V. Gallego-Sala | Z. Yu

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 2169;
Date: 2012;
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ABSTRACT
High-latitude peatlands contain about one third of the world's soil organic carbon, most of which is derived from partly decomposed Sphagnum (peat moss) plants. We conducted a meta-analysis based on a global dataset of Sphagnum growth measurements collected from published literature to investigate the effects of bioclimatic variables on Sphagnum growth. Analysis of variance and general linear models were used to relate Sphagnum magellanicum and S. fuscum growth rates to photosynthetically active radiation integrated over the growing season (PAR0) and a moisture index. We found that PAR0 was the main predictor of Sphagnum growth for the global dataset, and effective moisture was only correlated with moss growth at continental sites. The strong correlation between Sphagnum growth and PAR0 suggests the existence of a global pattern of growth, with slow rates under cool climate and short growing seasons, highlighting the important role of temperature and growing season length in explaining peatland biomass production. Large-scale patterns of cloudiness during the growing season might also limit moss growth. Although considerable uncertainty remains over the carbon balance of peatlands under a changing climate, our results suggest that increasing PAR0 as a result of global warming and lengthening growing seasons could promote Sphagnum growth. Assuming that production and decomposition have the same sensitivity to temperature, this enhanced growth could lead to greater peat-carbon sequestration, inducing a negative feedback to climate change.
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