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Holocene carbon accumulation in the peatlands of northern Scotland

A. Henderson, A. Newton, A.R. Anderson, B. Smith, D. Mauquoy, R. Andersen, R.J. Payne, S. Waldron, T.J. Sloan

Lead Author: J.L. Ratcliffe

Home publication Holocene carbon accumulation in the peatlands of northern Scotland


The response of peatland carbon accumulation to climate can be complex, with internal feedbacks and processes that can dampen or amplify responses to external forcing. Records of carbon accumulation from peat cores provide a record of carbon which persists as peat over long periods of time, demonstrating the long-term response of peatland carbon stocks to climatic events. Numerous records of long-term carbon accumulation exist globally. However, peatlands from oceanic climates, and particularly blanket bog, remain under-represented. Scottish bogs, which collectively have more than 475 separate palaeoecological records, may prove to be a valuable resource for studying the impact of environmental change on past rates of carbon accumulation. Here we present 12 records of carbon accumulation from the north of Scotland. We support these results with a further 43 records where potential carbon accumulation is inferred from published ages. These reveal a trend of high carbon accumulation in the early Holocene, declining in the mid-to-late Holocene. The trend is consistent with accumulation profiles from other northern peatlands and is likely to have been caused by climatic cooling. Considerable variability in carbon accumulation rates between locations is apparent for the mid-to-late Holocene. We attribute to hydrologically induced changes in carbon accumulation which are likely to be inconsistent between sites.

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Publication type
Peer reviewed papers
Publication owner
Forest Research