Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/2381/39363
Title: Age, extent and carbon storage of the central Congo Basin peatland complex
Authors: Dargie, Greta C.
Lewis, Simon L.
Lawson, Ian T.
Mitchard, Edward T. A.
Page, Susan E.
Bocko, Yannick E.
Ifo, Suspense A.
First Published: 11-Jan-2017
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Citation: Nature 2017 542, 86–90
Abstract: Peatlands are carbon-rich ecosystems that cover just three per cent of Earth’s land surface1, but store one-third of soil carbon2. Peat soils are formed by the build-up of partially decomposed organic matter under waterlogged anoxic conditions. Most peat is found in cool climatic regions where unimpeded decomposition is slower, but deposits are also found under some tropical swamp forests2, 3. Here we present field measurements from one of the world’s most extensive regions of swamp forest, the Cuvette Centrale depression in the central Congo Basin4. We find extensive peat deposits beneath the swamp forest vegetation (peat defined as material with an organic matter content of at least 65 per cent to a depth of at least 0.3 metres). Radiocarbon dates indicate that peat began accumulating from about 10,600 years ago, coincident with the onset of more humid conditions in central Africa at the beginning of the Holocene5. The peatlands occupy large interfluvial basins, and seem to be largely rain-fed and ombrotrophic-like (of low nutrient status) systems. Although the peat layer is relatively shallow (with a maximum depth of 5.9 metres and a median depth of 2.0 metres), by combining in situ and remotely sensed data, we estimate the area of peat to be approximately 145,500 square kilometres (95 per cent confidence interval of 131,900–156,400 square kilometres), making the Cuvette Centrale the most extensive peatland complex in the tropics. This area is more than five times the maximum possible area reported for the Congo Basin in a recent synthesis of pantropical peat extent2. We estimate that the peatlands store approximately 30.6 petagrams (30.6 × 1015 grams) of carbon belowground (95 per cent confidence interval of 6.3–46.8 petagrams of carbon)—a quantity that is similar to the above-ground carbon stocks of the tropical forests of the entire Congo Basin6. Our result for the Cuvette Centrale increases the best estimate of global tropical peatland carbon stocks by 36 per cent, to 104.7 petagrams of carbon (minimum estimate of 69.6 petagrams of carbon; maximum estimate of 129.8 petagrams of carbon2). This stored carbon is vulnerable to land-use change and any future reduction in precipitation 7, 8.
DOI Link: 10.1038/nature21048
ISSN: 0028-0836
eISSN: 1476-4687
Links: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v542/n7639/full/nature21048.html
http://hdl.handle.net/2381/39363
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © Nature Publishing Group 2017. After an embargo period this version of the paper will be an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Description: The file associated with this record is under embargo until 6 months after publication, in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy. The full text may be available through the publisher links provided above.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Geography

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