Latitudinal limits to the predicted increase of the peatland carbon sink with warming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The carbon sink potential of peatlands depends on the balance of carbon uptake by plants and microbial decomposition. The rates of both these processes will increase with warming but it remains unclear which will dominate the global peatland response. Here we examine the global relationship between peatland carbon accumulation rates during the last millennium and planetary-scale climate space. A positive relationship is found between carbon accumulation and cumulative photosynthetically active radiation during the growing season for mid- to high-latitude peatlands in both hemispheres. However, this relationship reverses at lower latitudes, suggesting that carbon accumulation is lower under the warmest climate regimes. Projections under Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP)2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios indicate that the present-day global sink will increase slightly until around ad 2100 but decline thereafter. Peatlands will remain a carbon sink in the future, but their response to warming switches from a negative to a positive climate feedback (decreased carbon sink with warming) at the end of the twenty-first century.


  • Angela V. Gallego-Sala
  • Dan J. Charman
  • Simon Brewer
  • Susan E. Page
  • I. Colin Prentice
  • Pierre Friedlingstein
  • Steve Moreton
  • Matthew J. Amesbury
  • David W. Beilman
  • Tatiana Blyakharchuk
  • Christopher Bochicchio
  • Robert K. Booth
  • Joan Bunbury
  • Philip Camill
  • Donna Carless
  • Rodney A. Chimner
  • Michael Clifford
  • Elizabeth Cressey
  • Colin Courtney-Mustaphi
  • François De Vleeschouwer
  • Rixt de Jong
  • Barbara Fialkiewicz-Koziel
  • Sarah A. Finkelstein
  • Michelle Garneau
  • Esther Githumbi
  • John Hribjlan
  • James Holmquist
  • Paul D.M. Hughes
  • Chris Jones
  • Miriam C. Jones
  • Edgar Karofeld
  • Eric S. Klein
  • Ulla Kokfelt
  • Atte Korhola
  • Terri Lacourse
  • Gael Le Roux
  • Mariusz Lamentowicz
  • David Large
  • Martin Lavoie
  • Julie Loisel
  • Helen Mackay
  • Glen M. MacDonald
  • Markku Makila
  • Gabriel Magnan
  • Robert Marchant
  • Katarzyna Marcisz
  • Antonio Martínez Cortizas
  • Charly Massa
  • Paul Mathijssen
  • Dmitri Mauquoy
  • Timothy Mighall
  • Fraser J.G. Mitchell
  • Patrick Moss
  • Jonathan Nichols
  • Pirita O. Oksanen
  • Lisa Orme
  • Maara S. Packalen
  • Stephen Robinson
  • Thomas P. Roland
  • Nicole K. Sanderson
  • A. Britta K. Sannel
  • Noemí Silva-Sánchez
  • Natascha Steinberg
  • Graeme T. Swindles
  • T. Edward Turner
  • Joanna Uglow
  • Minna Väliranta
  • Simon van Bellen
  • Marjolein van der Linden
  • Bas van Geel
  • Guoping Wang
  • Zicheng Yu
  • Joana Zaragoza-Castells
  • Yan Zhao
External organisations
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Utah
  • University of Leicester
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • Lehigh University
  • University of York
  • Uppsala University
  • University of Toulouse
  • Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
  • University of Toronto
  • University Of Quebec In Montreal
  • Michigan Technological University
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of Southampton
  • Met Office
  • Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • University of Helsinki
  • University of Victoria
  • University of Nottingham
  • Laval University
  • Texas A and M University
  • University of Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Geological Survey of Finland
  • University of Bern
  • CIBER de Fisiopatología Obesidad y Nutricion (CIBEROBN)
  • University of Aberdeen
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • University of Queensland
  • Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
  • University of Lapland
  • Norwegian Polar Institute
  • Stockholm University
  • University of Leeds
  • Academic Medical Center of University of Amsterdam (AMC)
  • University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Northeast Normal University
  • NERC Radiocarbon Facility
  • Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
  • Bowdoin College
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Physical Geography
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-913
Number of pages7
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch