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Long-term macronutrient stoichiometry of UK ombrotrophic peatlands

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/12/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Science of the Total Environment
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)1561-1572
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date17/04/16
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this paper we report new data on peat carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations and accumulation rates for 15 sites in the UK. Concentrations of C, N and P measured in peat from five ombrotrophic blanket mires, spanning 4000–10,000 years to present were combined with existing nutrient data from ten Scottish ombrotrophic peat bogs to provide the first UK perspective on millennial scale macronutrient concentrations in ombrotrophic peats. Long-term average C, N and P concentrations (0–1.25 m) for the UK are 54.8, 1.56 and 0.039 wt%, of similar magnitude to the few published comparable sites worldwide. The uppermost peat (0–0.2 m) is enriched in P and N (51.0, 1.86, and 0.070 wt%) relative to the deeper peat (0.5–1.25 m, 56.3, 1.39, and 0.027 wt%). Long-term average (whole core) accumulation rates of C, N and P are 25.3 ± 2.2 gC m− 2 year−1 (mean ± SE), 0.70 ± 0.09 gN m− 2 year− 1 and 0.018 ± 0.004 gP m− 2 year− 1, again similar to values reported elsewhere in the world. The two most significant findings are: 1) that a regression model of N concentration on P concentration and mean annual precipitation, based on global meta data for surface peat samples, can explain 54% of variance in N concentration in these UK peat profiles; and 2) budget calculations for the UK peat cores yield an estimate for long-term average N-fixation of 0.8 g m− 2 year− 1. Our UK results, and comparison with others sites, corroborate published estimates of N storage in northern boreal peatlands through the Holocene as ranging between 8 and 15 Pg N. However, the observed correlation of N% with both mean annual precipitation and P concentration allows a potential bias in global estimates that do not take this into account.

The peat sampling data set has been deposited at the NERC Data Centre (Toberman et al., 2016).