, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 989–1000

Drought as a Trigger for Rapid State Shifts in Kettle Ecosystems: Implications for Ecosystem Responses to Climate Change


    • Earth and Environmental Sciences DepartmentLehigh University
  • Robert K. Booth
    • Earth and Environmental Sciences DepartmentLehigh University
  • Sara C. Hotchkiss
    • Department of BotanyUniversity of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Jennifer E. Schmitz
    • Limnology and Marine Science ProgramUniversity of Wisconsin – Madison

DOI: 10.1007/s13157-012-0324-6

Cite this article as:
Ireland, A.W., Booth, R.K., Hotchkiss, S.C. et al. Wetlands (2012) 32: 989. doi:10.1007/s13157-012-0324-6


Global climate change has raised important questions about ecosystem resilience and the likelihood of unexpected and potentially irreversible ecosystem state shifts. Conceptual models provide a framework for generating hypotheses about long-term ecosystem processes and their responses to external perturbations. In this article, we review the classic model of autogenic peatland encroachment into closed-basin kettle lakes (terrestrialization) as well as studies that document patterns of terrestrialization that are inconsistent with this hypothesis. We then present a new conceptual model of episodic, drought-triggered terrestrialization, which is consistent with existing data and provides a mechanism by which climatic variability could cause non-linear patterns of peatland development in these ecosystems. Next, we review data from comparative studies of kettle lakes along a peatland-development gradient to explore potential ecological and biogeochemical consequences of non-linear patterns of terrestrialization. Finally, we identify research approaches that could be used to test conceptual models of terrestrialization, investigate the ecological implications of non-linear patterns of peatland development, and improve our ability to predict responses of kettle systems to climate changes of the coming decades and century.


PeatlandsAutogenic successionAllogenic processesHydrologyGeomorphologySedimentationEcosystem state shiftCarbon cyclingEcosystem servicesModel systems

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2012