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Peat humification and climate change: a multi-site comparison from mires in south-east Alaska

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Author(s): R.J. Payne | J.J. Blackford

Journal: Mires and Peat
ISSN 1819-754X

Volume: 3;
Issue: 09;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Holocene | palaeoclimate | palaeoecology | palaeohydrology | peatlands | testate amoebae

ABSTRACT
Peatland records of Holocene palaeoclimate have been widely used in Europe. Their potential in western North America remains largely unexploited despite an abundance of candidate sites. Peat humification analysis is a widely used technique for palaeoclimatic inference from peatlands. This study attempts to demonstrate a climatic role in determining peat humification by comparing low-resolution peat humification records from five mires in south-east Alaska. Humification was determined by alkali extraction and colorimetry and records dated by radiocarbon and tephrochronology. Testate amoebae analysis was carried out across a major humification-inferred wet shift in three of the sites. The humification results show variability down the length of the cores but there is only limited agreement between records from different sites. Many general trends in the data appear to be out of phase and periods of proxy 'complacency' are shown. This study does not provide strong evidence for climatic forcing of humification in these sites. Methodological issues including possible problems with the age-depth models and the role of a peat-forming plant species signal in the humification data are discussed. The results support previous studies in suggesting the value of employing a multi-proxy, multi-site, and possibly multi-core approach in peat-based palaeoclimatology.
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