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Warming effects on greenhouse gas fluxes in peatlands are modulated by vegetation composition

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date10/2013
JournalEcology Letters
Number of pages9
Early online date19/08/13
Original languageEnglish


Understanding the effects of warming on greenhouse gas feedbacks to climate change represents a major global challenge. Most research has focused on direct effects of warming, without considering how concurrent changes in plant communities may alter such effects. Here, we combined vegetation manipulations with warming to investigate their interactive effects on greenhouse gas emissions from peatland. We found that although warming consistently increased respiration, the effect on net ecosystem CO2 exchange depended on vegetation composition. The greatest increase in CO2 sink strength after warming was when shrubs were present, and the greatest decrease when graminoids were present. CH4 was more strongly controlled by vegetation composition than by warming, with largest emissions from graminoid communities. Our results show that plant community composition is a significant modulator of greenhouse gas emissions and their response to warming, and suggest that vegetation change could alter peatland carbon sink strength under future climate change.