Global warming is speeding the release of carbon dioxide, a chief greenhouse gas, from underground peat in subarctic wetlands, Dutch research indicates.
The research suggests rising temperatures are adding to the magnitude and velocity of global warming, Free University plant ecologist Ellen Dorrepaal and colleagues write in the journal Nature.
Their research shows that raising temperatures about 1 degree Celsius accelerates total ecosystem respiration rates by as much as 60 percent, creating an effect that can last at least eight years.
This is greater than previously thought, highlighting the extreme sensitivity of northern peatland carbon reservoirs to global warming, the researchers say.
Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed plant matter that forms in wetlands, or peatlands. The peatlands, forming for 360 million years, cover about 2 percent of the earth’s land mass and contain 550 gigatons (10 to the ninth power) of carbon.
The subarctic region is just south of the true arctic, covering much of Alaska, Canada, southern Greenland, the north of Scandinavia, Siberia, northern Mongolia and parts of China.