Impact of Human Activities on the Carbon Cycle

  • Hojeong Kang
  • Inyoung Jang
Reference work entry


Human activities have accelerated decomposition in wetland ecosystems, destabilizing carbon stocks in them. In particular, global climate change, drainage and atmospheric deposition are key activities that affect wetland carbon cycle substantially. Global climate change can affect carbon decomposition in wetlands by warming effects as well as more frequent droughts. Elevated CO2 itself can increase dissolved organic carbon leaching from wetlands through enhanced primary production. For coastal wetlands, sea level rise can also affect carbon mineralization by changes in water chemistry as well as oxygen availability. Wetlands have been subject to drainage for the development of agricultural fields and urban dwellings which can accelerate carbon decomposition by aeration. Finally, nitrogen and sulfur deposition can either increase or inhibit carbon decomposition depending on the nutrient status and locations. Overall, human activities can accelerate carbon decomposition in wetlands resulting in greater carbon releases into the atmosphere as CO2 or CH4, and into the aquatic ecosystems as DOC.


Carbon storage Carbon mineralization Global warming Greenhouse gas emission Sea level rise DOC 


  1. Elser JJ, Bracken ME, Cleland EE, Gruner DS, Harpole WS, Hillebrand H, Ngai JT, Seabloom EW, Shurin JB, Smith JE. Global analysis of nitrogen and phosphorus limitation of primary producers in freshwater, marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Ecol Lett. 2007;10:1135–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Freeman C, Fenner N, Ostle NJ, Kang H-J, Dowrick DJ, Reynolds B, Lock MA, Sleep D, Hughes S, Hudson J. Exports of dissolved organic carbon from peatlands under elevated carbon dioxide levels. Nature. 2004;430:195–8.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Gauci V, Matthews E, Dise N, Walter B, Koch D, Granberg G, Vile M. Sulfate suppression of the wetland methane source in the 20th and 21st centuries. P Natl Acad Sci USA. 2004;101:12583–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kim S, Kang H. Effects of elevated CO2 on below-ground processes in temperate marsh microcosms. Hydrobiologia. 2008;605:123–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. LeBauer DS, Treseder KK. Nitrogen limitation of net primary productivity in terrestrial ecosystems is globally distributed. Ecology. 2008;89:371–9.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Moore S, Evans CD, Page SE, Garnett MH, Jones TG, Freeman C, Hooijer A, Wiltshire AJ, Limin SH, Gauci V. Deep instability of deforested tropical peatlands revealed by fluvial organic carbon fluxes. Nature. 2013;493:660–3.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Yu ZC. Northern peatland carbon stocks and dynamics: a review. Biogeosciences. 2012;9:4071–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringYonsei UniversitySeoulKorea
  2. 2.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations