Long-Term Carbon Sequestration in Boreal Forested Peatlands in Eastern Canada

Abstract

Forested peatlands are widespread in the boreal landscape, but their role as carbon (C) pools remains poorly documented. In this study, we investigated the long-term C sequestration function of boreal forested bogs in relation to fires in eastern Canada. Results show that the forested peatlands comprise substantial peat C mass reaching values similar to open peatlands. At the six studied peatland sites, the amount of C stored in peat (62–172 kg C m−2) exceeds substantially the aboveground tree biomass C (1.5–5.3 kg C m−2). The C locked up in live conifers on the peatlands corresponds only to a small fraction of the C stored in peat (1–6%). In comparison, the shallow organic layer (≤ 30 cm) in the adjacent paludifying stands store 10.8 kg C m−2 on average, which is about twice as much C as the live conifers. Long-term apparent C accumulation rates are relatively low in the studied forested bogs (mean: 15.9 g C m−2 y−1), suggesting that these ecosystems have lower C sequestration potential than non-forested bogs over millennia. The charcoal data suggest that past local fires reduced C sequestration rates, but these peatlands burn much less frequently than upland forests and are thus more efficient long-term C stores. This study highlights the importance of boreal forested peatlands as C reservoirs and helps understanding how fires, logging and climate change can affect their C sequestration function. These findings have important implications for ecosystem management that aims at maximizing C sequestration at the landscape level to mitigate climate change.

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Acknowledgements

This project was funded by Mitacs acceleration program in collaboration with the Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (MFFP) and forest industries (Barette-Chapais Ltée, Groupe Remabec). We would like to thank Abed Nego Jules for his help in the laboratory and Louis-Martin Pilote for his help during the field work. We are grateful to Joannie Beaulne for her comments on an early version of the manuscript. Thanks to all the members of Les Tourbeux group (Geotop-UQAM) for their help and support. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for providing thoughtful comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gabriel Magnan.

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Author Contributions: All authors participated to the conception of the study and designed methodology. GM and ELB analysed data. All authors contributed to the writing and approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Magnan, G., Garneau, M., Le Stum-Boivin, É. et al. Long-Term Carbon Sequestration in Boreal Forested Peatlands in Eastern Canada. Ecosystems 23, 1481–1493 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-020-00483-x

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Keywords

  • forested peatlands
  • carbon accumulation
  • Holocene
  • boreal biome
  • eastern Canada
  • fires
  • charcoal
  • ecosystem management
  • paludifying forests