Ecological Studies Volume 188, 2006, pp 125-143

Decomposition in Boreal Peatlands

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7.3 Conclusions

The slow rates of decomposition of plant tissues and peat are critical to the accumulation of large amounts of organic matter in boreal peatlands. This slowness is a combination of the poor nutrient content and high refractory content of most peatland plants and the underlying peat, the generally cool and frequently anoxic conditions in which the plant tissues and peat decompose, and small microbial populations, when normalized to soil organic C content. Although several studies have identified and quantified the influence of these controls of decomposition rates for individual peatlands, we still lack a coherence, compared with forest or grassland systems, in the application of this knowledge to the broad range of peatlands that occur with boreal environments under both natural and disturbed (such as drained, harvested, or flooded) conditions or under climate-change scenarios.