Carbon accumulation rates of Holocene peatlands in central-eastern Europe document the driving role of human impact for the past 4000 years

Jack Longman*, Daniel Veres, Aritina Haliuc, Walter Finsinger, Vasile Ersek, Daniela Pascal, Tiberiu Sava, Robert Begy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Peatlands are one of the largest terrestrial carbon sinks on the planet, yet little is known about carbon accumulation rates (CARs) of mountainous examples. The long-term variability in the size of the associated carbon sink and its drivers remain largely unconstrained, especially when long-term anthropogenic impact is also considered. Here we present a composite CAR record of nine peatlands from central-eastern Europe (Romania and Serbia) detailing variability in rates of carbon accumulation across the Holocene. We show examples of extremely high long-term rates of carbon accumulation (LORCA >120 g C m− 2 yr− 1), indicating that at times, mountain peatlands constitute an efficient regional carbon sink. By comparing our data to modelled palaeoclimatic indices and to measures of anthropogenic impact we disentangle the drivers of peat carbon accumulation in the area. Variability in early and mid-Holocene CARs is linked to hydroclimatic controls, with high CARs occurring during the early Holocene and lower CARs associated with the transition to cooler and moister mid-Holocene conditions. By contrast, after 4000 years (calibrated) before present (yr BP) the trends in CARs indicate a divergence from hydroclimate proxies, indicating that other processes became the dominant drivers of peat CARs. We suggest that enhanced erosion following tree cover reduction as well as enhanced rates of long-distance atmospheric dust fallout might have played a role as both processes would result in enhanced mineral and nutrient supply to bog surfaces, stimulating peat land productivity. Surprisingly though, for the last 1000 years, reconstructed temperature is significantly correlated with CARs, with rising temperatures linked to higher CARs. We suggest under future climate conditions, predicted to be warmer in the region, peat growth may expand, but that this is entirely dependent upon the scale of human impact directly affecting the sensitive hydrological budget of these peatlands.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2633–2652
Number of pages20
JournalClimate of the Past
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2021


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