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Peatlands store globally significant amounts of carbon and are important sources of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4) to the atmosphere. However, for reasons which are not well understood, many peatland soils produce smaller amounts of CH4 than theoretically predicted, and carbon dioxide (CO2) produced during anaerobic decomposition in peatland soils cannot be accounted for by commonly measured microbial processes. Here we show that the reduction of solid-phase organic matter (i.e., humic substances) suppresses CH4 production in a bog soil and can be responsible for 33–61% of the total carbon mineralization in this soil. These results demonstrate that the reduction of organic matter is a key component of anaerobic decomposition in peatlands, and is at least partially responsible for their low CH4 production. Thus, organic matter reduction may be a key regulator of how peatlands respond to ongoing global change.


This article was originally published in Ecosphere, volume 4, issue 5, in 2013. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00382.1


Ecological Society of America



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