Boreal Peatland Ecosystems

Volume 188 of the series Ecological Studies pp 25-46

The Postglacial Development of Boreal and Subarctic Peatlands

  • Peter KuhryAffiliated withDepartment of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University
  • , Jukka TurunenAffiliated withKuopio Unit, Geological Survey of Finland (GTK)

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3.8 Conclusions

Peatland development is controlled by both autogenic and allogenic factors. The processes of peat (sediment) accumulation and acidification by Sphagnum result in hydroseral successions towards drier and more oligotrophic conditions. Secondary pattern development is also largely initiated by local biotic factors, with the exception of permafrost landforms. Within boreal and subarctic peatland development, however, regional patterns arise from the influence of temperature and precipitation. Peat accumulation rates are higher in southern/boreal than in northern/subarctic peatlands. The incidence of fire and permafrost is more important in continental than oceanic areas. The increased use of remote sensing techniques is diminishing uncertainties related to total peatland surface area in boreal and subarctic regions, but regional assessments of peatland development and peat accumulation are still hindered by limited and biased sampling, especially in the more remote areas of the northern hemisphere (e.g., subarctic Canada and western Siberia).