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Future vegetation changes in thawing subarctic mires and implications for greenhouse gas exchange—a regional assessment


  • Julia Bosiö


  • Margareta Johansson
  • Terry Callaghan
  • Bernt Johansen
  • Torben Christensen


One of the major concerns regarding climate change in high latitudes is the potential feedback from greenhouse gases (GHG) being released from thawing peat soils. In this paper we show how vegetational patterns and associated GHG fluxes in subarctic palsa (peat mounds with a permanently frozen core) mires can be linked to climate, based on field observations from fifteen palsa sites distributed in northern Fennoscandia. Fine resolution (100 m) land cover data are combined with projections of future climate for the 21st century in order to model the potential future distribution of palsa vegetation in northern Fennoscandia. Site scale climate-vegetational relationships for two vegetation types are described by a climate suitability index computed from the field observations. Our results indicate drastic changes in the palsa vegetational patterns over the coming decades with a 97 % reduction in dry hummock areas by 2041–2060 compared to the 1961–1990 areal coverage. The impact of these changes on the carbon balance is a decrease in the efflux of CO 2 from 130 kilotonnes C y −1 to a net uptake of 11 kilotonnes C y −1 and a threefold increase in the efflux of CH 4 from 6 to 18 kilotonnes C y −1 over the same period and over the 5,520 km 2 area of palsa mires. The combined effect is equivalent to a slight decrease in CO 2 -C emissions, from 182 to 152 kilotonnes C y −1 . Main uncertainties involve the ability of the vegetation community to adapt to new conditions, and long-term changes in hydrology due to absence of ice and frost heaving. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Julia Bosiö & Margareta Johansson & Terry Callaghan & Bernt Johansen & Torben Christensen, 2012. "Future vegetation changes in thawing subarctic mires and implications for greenhouse gas exchange—a regional assessment," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 115(2), pages 379-398, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:115:y:2012:i:2:p:379-398
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0445-1

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    Cited by:

    1. Julia Bosiö & Christian Stiegler & Margareta Johansson & Herbert Mbufong & Torben Christensen, 2014. "Increased photosynthesis compensates for shorter growing season in subarctic tundra—8 years of snow accumulation manipulations," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 127(2), pages 321-334, November.

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