Novak, M., Brizova, E. Adamova, M., Erbanova, L. and Bottrell, S.H. 2008. Accumulation of organic carbon over the past 150 years in five freshwater peatlands in western and central Europe. Science of the Total Environment 390: 425-436.
In the words of the authors, "under predicted scenarios of global climate change, peatlands may become a net source of greenhouse gases which will accelerate warming of the atmosphere," which fear is played upon mightily by climate alarmists such as Al Gore. But are these "predicted scenarios" correct?
What was done
In an effort to shed more light on this important subject, Novak et al. developed 150-year histories of peat accumulation in three maritime peat bogs in the British Isles and two high-elevation peatlands in the Czech Republic, all of which sites were relatively wet. Mean annual temperatures, however, were higher by up to 6°C at the Brithis/Irish sites than at the Czech sites.
What was learned
The Czech and UK researchers report that "when cumulative carbon content was evaluated for the last ca. 150 years, no relationship was found between mean annual temperature and the carbon pool size." In fact, they found that even when study sites are chosen along climatic gradients, "idiosyncratic combinations of environmental and biological parameters appear to control carbon pool size over the past ca. 150 years." In addition, they note that these findings and conclusions "are consistent with insensitivity of carbon accumulation in recent peat to temperature reported from the United States," citing the work of Wieder et al. (1994), who they say "compared vertical height growth and organic matter accumulation in five North American peatlands, differing in mean annual temperature by 4°C."
What it means
If temperature variations in space have essentially no impact on the carbon sequestration prowess of earth's peatlands, as is suggested by the two studies described above, there is little reason to believe that temperature variations in time would be much different in this regard. Hence, there would appear to be little real-world support for the climate-alarmist claim that in response to future global warming, "peatlands may become a net source of greenhouse gases which will accelerate warming of the atmosphere."
Wieder, R.K., Novak, M., Schell, W.R. and Rhodes, T. 1994. Rates of peat accumulation over the past 200 years in five Sphagnum-dominated peatlands in the United States. Journal of Paleolimnology 12: 35-47.