, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 471–480 | Cite as

Should Aquatic CO2 Evasion be Included in Contemporary Carbon Budgets for Peatland Ecosystems?



Quantifying the sink strength of northern hemisphere peatlands requires measurements or realistic estimates of all major C flux terms. Whilst assessments of the net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) routinely include annual measurements of net ecosystem exchange and lateral fluxes of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), they rarely include estimates of evasion (degassing) of CO2 and CH4 from the water surface to the atmosphere, despite supersaturation being a consistent feature of peatland streams. Instantaneous gas exchange measurements from temperate UK peatland streams suggest that the CO2 evasion fluxes scaled to the whole catchment are a significant component of the aquatic C flux (23.3 ± 6.9 g C m−2 catchment y−1) and comparable in magnitude to the downstream DOC flux (29.1 ± 12.9 g C m−2 catchment y−1). Inclusion of the evasion flux term in the NECB would be justified if evaded CO2 and CH4 were isotopically “young” and derived from a “within-ecosystem” source, such as peat or in-stream processing of DOC. Derivation from “old” biogenic or geogenic sources would indicate a separate origin and age of C fixation, disconnected from the ecosystem accumulation rate that the NECB definition implies. Dual isotope analysis (δ13C and 14C) of evasion CO2 and DOC strongly suggest that the source and age of both are different and that evasion CO2 is largely derived from allochthonous (non-stream) sources. Whilst evasion is an important flux term relative to the other components of the NECB, isotopic data suggest that its source and age are peatland-specific. Evidence suggests that a component of the CO2-C evading from stream surfaces was originally fixed from the atmosphere at a significantly earlier time (pre-AD1955) than modern (post-AD1955) C fixation by photosynthesis.


carbon dioxide evasion net ecosystem carbon balance peatland dissolved organic carbon radiocarbon 


  1. Billett MF, Garnett MH. 2010. The isotopic composition of CO2 lost by evasion from surface water to the atmosphere: a methodological comparison of a direct and indirect approach. Limnol Oceanogr Methods 8:45–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Billett MF, Harvey FH. 2013. Measurements of CO2 and CH4 evasion from UK peatland headwater streams. Biogeochemistry 114:165–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Billett MF, Moore TR. 2008. Supersaturation and evasion of CO2 and CH4 in surface waters at Mer Bleue Peatland, Canada. Hydrol Proc 22:2044–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Billett MF, Palmer SM, Hope D, Deacon C, Storeton-West R, Hargreaves KJ, Flechard C, Fowler D. 2004. Linking land-atmosphere-stream carbon fluxes in a lowland peatland system. Glob Biogeochem Cycle 18:GB1024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Billett MF, Garnett MH, Harvey F. 2007. UK peatland streams release old carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and young dissolved organic carbon to rivers. Geophys Res Lett 34:L23401.Google Scholar
  6. Billett MF, Charman DJ, Clark JM, Evans CD, Evans MG, Ostle NJ, Worrall F, Burden A, Dinsmore KJ, Jones T, McNamara NP, Parry L, Rowson JG, Rose R. 2010. Carbon balance of UK peatlands: current state of knowledge and future research challenges. Clim Res 45:13–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Billett MF, Dinsmore KJ, Garnett MH, Smart RP, Holden J, Baird AJ, Chapman PJ. 2012a. Variable source and age of different forms of carbon released from natural peatland pipes. JGR Biogeosci 117:G02003.Google Scholar
  8. Billett MF, Garnett MH, Dinsmore KJ, Dyson KE, Harvey F, Thomson AH, Piirainen S, Kortelainen P. 2012b. Age and source of different forms of carbon released from boreal peatland streams during spring snowmelt in E, Finland. Biogeochemistry 111:273–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Butman D, Raymond PA. 2011. Significant efflux of carbon dioxide from streams and rivers in the United States. Nat Geosci 4:839–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cannell MGR, Milne R, Hargreaves KJ, Brown TAW, Cruickshank MM, Bradley RI, Spencer T, Hope D, Billett MF, Adger WN, Subak S. 1999. National inventories of terrestrial carbon sources and sinks: the U.K. experience. Clim Change 42:505–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chapin FSIII, Woodwell GM, Randerson JT, Rastetter EB, Lovett GM, Baldocchi DD, Clark DA, Harmon ME, Schimel DS, Valentini R, Wirth C, Aber JD, Cole JJ, Goulden ML, Harden JW, Heimann M, Howarth RW, Matson PA, McGuire AD, Melillo JM, Mooney HA, Neff JC, Houghton RA, Pace ML, Ryan MG, Running SW, Sala OE, Schlesinger WH, Schulze ED. 2006. Reconciling carbon-cycle concepts terminology, and methods. Ecosystems 9:1041–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cole JJ, Prairie YT, Caraco NF, McDowell WH, Tranvik LJ, Striegl RG, Duarte CM, Kortelainen P, Downing JA, Middelburg JJ, Melack J. 2007. Plumbing the global carbon cycle: integrating inland waters into the terrestrial carbon budget. Ecosystems 10:171–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dawson JJC, Billett MF, Neal C, Hill S. 2002. A comparison of particulate, dissolved and gaseous carbon in two contrasting upland streams in the UK. J Hydrol 257:226–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dinsmore KJ, Billett MF. 2008. Continuous measurement and modelling of CO2 losses from a peatland stream during stormflow events. Water Resour Res 44:W12417.Google Scholar
  15. Dinsmore KJ, Billett MF, Skiba U, Rees RM, Drewer J, Helfter C. 2010. Role of the aquatic pathway in the carbon and greenhouse gas budgets of a peatland catchment. Glob Change Biol 16:2750–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dinsmore KJ, Wallin MB, Johnson MS, Billett MF, Bishop K, Pumpanen J, Ojala A. 2013. Contrasting CO2 concentration discharge dynamics in headwater streams: a multi-catchment comparison. J Geophys Res Biogeosci 118:445–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Garnett MH, Dinsmore KJ, Billett MF. 2012. Annual variability in the radiocarbon age and source of dissolved CO2 in a peatland stream. Sci Total Environ 427–428:277–85.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Gorham E. 1991. Northern peatlands: role in the carbon cycle and probable responses to climatic warming. Ecol Appl 1:182–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Holden J, Smart RP, Dinsmore KJ, Baird AJ, Billett MF, Chapman PJ. 2012. Natural pipes in blanket peatlands: major point sources for the release of carbon to the aquatic system. Glob Change Biol 18:3568–80.Google Scholar
  20. Hope D, Dawson JJC, Cresser MS, Billett MF. 1995. A method for measuring free-CO2 in upland streamwater using headspace analysis. J Hydrol 166:1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hope D, Billett MF, Milne R, Brown TAW. 1997. Exports of organic carbon in British rivers. Hydrol Proc 11:325–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hope D, Palmer SM, Billett MF, Dawson JJC. 2001. Carbon dioxide and methane evasion from a temperate peatland stream. Limnol Oceanogr 46:847–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hope D, Palmer SM, Billett MF, Dawson JJC. 2004. Variations in dissolved CO2 and CH4 in a first order stream and catchment: an investigation of soil stream linkages. Hydrol Proc 18:3255–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. IPCC. 2007. Technical summary. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Chen Z, Marquis M, Averyt KB, Tignor M, Miller HL, Eds. Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group 1 to the forth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  25. JNCC. 2011. Towards an assessment of the state of UK peatlands. Joint Nature Conservation Committee Report No. 445. ISSN 0963 8901.Google Scholar
  26. Johnson MS, Billett MF, Dinsmore KJ, Wallin M, Dyson K. 2010. Direct in situ measurement of dissolved carbon dioxide in freshwater aquatic systems—method and applications. Ecohydrology 3:68–78.Google Scholar
  27. Joosten H, Clarke D. 2002. Wise use of mires and peatlands. Saarijärvi: International Mire Conservation Group and International Peat Society. ISBN 951-97744-8-3.Google Scholar
  28. Kling GW, Kipphut GW, Miller MC. 1991. Arctic streams and lakes as conduits to the atmosphere: implications for tundra carbon budgets. Science 251:298–301.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Koehler AK, Sottocornola M, Kiely G. 2011. How strong is the current carbon sequestration of an Atlantic blanket bog? Glob Change Biol 17:309–19. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2010.02180.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levin I, Hasshaimer V. 2000. Radiocarbon—a unique tracer of global carbon cycle dynamics. Radiocarbon 42:69–80.Google Scholar
  31. Levin I, Hammer S, Kromer B, Meinhardt F. 2008. Radiocarbon observations in atmospheric CO2: determining fossil fuel CO2 over Europe using Jungfraujoch observations as background. Sci Total Environ 391:211–6.Google Scholar
  32. Neal C, House WA, Down C. 1998. An assessment of excess carbon dioxide partial pressures in natural waters based on pH and alkalinity measurements. Sci Total Environ 210–211:173–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nilsson M, Sagerfors J, Buffam I, Laudon H, Eriksson T, Grelle A, Klemedtsson L, Weslien P, Lindroth A. 2008. Contemporary carbon accumulation in a boreal oligotrophic minerogenic mire—a significant sink after accounting for all C-fluxes. Glob Change Biol 14:2317–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. O′Brien HE, Labadz JC, Butcher DP, Billett MF, Midgley NG. 2008. Impact of catchment management upon dissolved organic carbon and stream flows in the Peak District, Derbyshire, UK. In: Sustainable Hydrology for the 21st Century, Proc. 10th BHS National Hydrology Symposium, Exeter, pp 178–85.Google Scholar
  35. Roulet N, Lafleur PM, Richard PJH, Moore TR, Humphreys ER, Bubier J. 2007. Contemporary carbon balance and late Holocene carbon accumulation in a northern peatland. Glob Change Biol 13:397–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Striegl RG, Dornblaser MM, McDonald CP, Rover JR, Stets EG. 2012. Carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the Yukon River system. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 26:GB0E05.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Teodoru CR, Del-Giorgio PA, Prairie YT, Camire M. 2009. Patterns in pCO2 in boreal streams and rivers of northern Quebec, Canada. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 23:GB2012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Tranvik LJ, Downing JA, Cotner JB, Loiselle SA, Striegl RG, Ballatore TJ, Dillon P, Finlay K, Fortino K, Knoll LB, Kortelainen PL, Kutser T, Larsen S, Laurion I, Leech DM, McCallister SL, McKnight DM, Melack JM, Overholt E, Porter JA, Prairie Y, Renwick WH, Roland F, Sherman BS, Schindler DW, Sobek S, Tremblay A, Vanni MJ, Verschoor AM, von Wachenfeldt E, Weyhenmeyer GA. 2009. Lakes and reservoirs as regulators of carbon cycling and climate. Limnol Oceanogr 54:2298–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turunen J, Tomppo E, Tolonen K, Reinikainen A. 2002. Estimating carbon accumulation rates of undrained mires in Finland—application to boreal and subarctic regions. Holocene 12:69–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wallin MB, Öquist MG, Buffam I, Billett MF, Nisell J, Bishop KH. 2011. Spatiotemporal variability of the gas transfer coefficient (KCO2) in boreal streams; implications for large scale estimates of CO2 evasion. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 25:GB3025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wallin MB, Grabs T, Buffam I, Laudon H, Ågren A, Öquist MG, Bishop KH. 2013. Evasion of CO2 from streams—the dominant component of the carbon export through the aquatic conduit in a boreal landscape. Glob Change Biol 19:785–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wickland KP, Aiken GR, Butler K, Dornblaser MM, Spencer RGM, Striegl RG. 2012. Biodegradability of dissolved organic carbon in the Yukon River and its tributaries: seasonality and importance of inorganic nitrogen. Glob Biogeochem Cycles 26:GB0E03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Worrall F, Davis H, Bhogal A, Lilly A, Evans M, Turner K, Burt T, Barraclough D, Smith P, Merrington G. 2012. The flux of DOC from the UK—predicting the role of soils, land use and net watershed losses. J Hydrol 448:149–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. F. Billett
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. H. Garnett
    • 3
  • K. J. Dinsmore
    • 2
  1. 1.Biological & Environmental Sciences, School of Natural SciencesUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK
  2. 2.Centre for Ecology and HydrologyBush EstatePenicuikUK
  3. 3.NERC Radiocarbon FacilityEast KilbrideUK

Personalised recommendations