Synthesizing greenhouse gas fluxes across nine European peatlands and shrublands – responses to climatic and environmental changes

Mette Sustmann Carter, Klaus Steenberg Larsen, B. Emmett, M. Estiarte, C. Field, I. D. Leith, M. Lund, A. Meijide, R. T. E. Mills, Ü. Niinemets, J. Peñuelas, M. Portillo-Estrada, I. K. Schmidt, Merete Bang Selsted, L. J. Sheppard, A. Sowerby, A. Tietema, Claus Beier

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In this study, we compare annual fluxes of methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and soil respiratory carbon dioxide (CO2) measured at nine European peatlands (n = 4) and shrublands (n = 5). The sites range from northern Sweden to Spain, covering a span in mean annual air temperature from 0 to 16 °C, and in annual precipitation from 300 to 1300 mm yr−1. The effects of climate change, including temperature increase and prolonged drought, were tested at five shrubland sites. At one peatland site, the long-term (>30 yr) effect of drainage was assessed, while increased nitrogen deposition was investigated at three peatland sites.

The shrublands were generally sinks for atmospheric CH4 whereas the peatlands were CH4 sources, with fluxes ranging from −519 to +6890 mg CH4-C m−2 yr−1 across the studied ecosystems. At the peatland sites, annual CH4 emission increased with mean annual air temperature, while a negative relationship was found between net CH4 uptake and the soil carbon stock at the shrubland sites. Annual N2O fluxes were generally small ranging from –14 to 42 mg N2O-N m−2 yr−1. Highest N2O emission occurred at the sites that had highest concentration of nitrate (NO3) in soil water. Furthermore, experimentally increased NO3 deposition led to increased N2O efflux, whereas prolonged drought and long-term drainage reduced the N2O efflux. Soil CO2 emissions in control plots ranged from 310 to 732 g CO2-C m−2 yr−1. Drought and long-term drainage generally reduced the soil CO2 efflux, except at a~hydric shrubland where drought tended to increase soil respiration.

When comparing the fractional importance of each greenhouse gas to the total numerical global warming response, the change in CO2 efflux dominated the response in all treatments (ranging 71–96%), except for NO3 addition where 89% was due to change in CH4 emissions. Thus, in European peatlands and shrublands the feedback to global warming induced by the investigated anthropogenic disturbances will be dominated by variations in soil CO2 fluxes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiogeosciences Discussions
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)3693-3738
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Earth and Environmental Sciences
  • Biology and Life Sciences


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