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The impact of high tephra loading on late-Holocene carbon accumulation and vegetation succession in peatland communities

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Peatlands are major terrestrial stores of carbon (C) of importance to the global climate system. Recent studies have made progress in understanding the climatic controls on the C cycle; however, important interactions between volcanic deposition and peatland C stores remain to be addressed. This study uses a 3000-year peatland record from northern Japan to examine the interactions between carbon accumulation, vegetation community succession and volcanic ash deposition. Plant macrofossil and testate amoebae records are presented alongside records of total organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous. Age–depth models are developed using a Bayesian approach, with seven AMS radiocarbon dates and two identified historical tephras from Baitoushan (AD 969 (981 cal. BP)), and Hokkaido-Komagatake (AD 1640 (310 cal. BP)) volcanoes. Results show that moderate to high tephra loading can shift peatland plant communities from Sphagnum to monocotyledon domination. This vegetation change is associated with increased peat humification and reduced carbon accumulation. Where tephra deposition and reworking has occurred, the apparent rate of carbon accumulation can be halved while high tephra loading of the mire surface is sustained. Sphagnum species vary in their tolerance to tephra deposition. After each ash fall Sphagnum magellanicum disappeared from the plant macrofossil record, whereas Sphagnum papillosum showed apparent continuity of development through the 1856 (94 cal. BP) Ko-c1 tephra. High rates of carbon accumulation (peaking at >100 g m?2 yr?1), 2–3 times faster than the average for northern peatlands, were recorded in the Sphagnum communities that established after the cessation of tephra deposition and reworking from the AD 969 Baitoushan ash fall (B-Tm tephra). This peak in C accumulation was coincident with a radical shift in mire nutrient cycling most probably caused by the interaction of S. magellanicum with leachates from the underlying tephras. The phase of high C accumulation continued for over 300 years, offsetting the initial negative impact of the B-Tm tephra on peatland C accumulation. These results suggest that management for ash-tolerant Sphagnum species could be a highly effective strategy for minimising volcanic disruption to peatland carbon accumulation. The study also shows that consideration of volcanic impacts on peatlands is essential for development of more realistic terrestrial carbon balance models in volcanically active regions.

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Hughes, P.D.M., Mallon, G., Brown, A., Essex, H.J., Stanford, J.D. and Hotes, S. (2013) The impact of high tephra loading on late-Holocene carbon accumulation and vegetation succession in peatland communities Quaternary Science Reviews, 67, pp. 160-175. (doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.01.015).

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e-pub ahead of print date: 8 March 2013
Published date: 1 May 2013
Keywords: plant macrofossils, tephra, testate amoebae, carbon accumulation, holocene, bog, hokkaido, japan
Organisations: Geography & Environment


Local EPrints ID: 357401
ISSN: 0277-3791
PURE UUID: c0868fb5-7ec4-4b8e-989e-5884915a3c9e

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Date deposited: 24 Sep 2013 15:41
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 03:33

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Author: P.D.M. Hughes
Author: G. Mallon
Author: A. Brown
Author: H.J. Essex
Author: J.D. Stanford
Author: S. Hotes

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