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Peatlands are one of the largest natural sources for atmospheric methane (CH4), a potent greenhouse gas. Climate warming and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are two important environmental factors that have been confirmed to stimulate peatland CH4 emissions; however, the mechanisms underlying enhanced emissions remain elusive. A data-model integration approach was applied to understand the CH4 processes in a northern temperate peatland under a gradient of warming and doubled atmospheric CO2 concentration. We found that warming and elevated CO2 stimulated CH4 emissions through different mechanisms. Warming initially stimulated but then suppressed vegetative productivity while stimulating soil organic matter (SOM) mineralization and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fermentation, which led to higher acetate production and enhanced acetoclastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. Warming also enhanced surface CH4 emissions, which combined with warming-caused decreases in CH4 solubility led to slightly lower dissolved CH4 concentrations through the soil profiles. Elevated CO2 enhanced ecosystem productivity and SOM mineralization, resulting in higher DOC and acetate concentrations. Higher DOC and acetate concentrations increased acetoclastic and hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis and led to higher dissolved CH4 concentrations and CH4 emissions. Both warming and elevated CO2 had minor impacts on CH4 oxidation. A meta-analysis of warming and elevated CO2 impacts on carbon cycling in wetlands agreed well with a majority of the modeled mechanisms. This mechanistic understanding of the stimulating impacts of warming and elevated CO2 on peatland CH4 emissions enhances our predictability on the climate-ecosystem feedback.


This article was originally published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, volume 126, in 2021.


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