A Strong Mitigation Scenario Maintains Climate Neutrality of Northern Peatlands

Chunjing Qiu
Philippe Ciais
Dan Zhu
Bertrand Guenet
Jinfeng Chang
Nitin Chaudhary
Thomas Kleinen
XinYu Li
Jurek Müller
Yi Xi
Wenxin Zhang
Ashley Ballantyne
Simon Brewer
Victor Brovkin
Dan Charman
Adrian Gustafson
Angela Gallego-Sala
Thomas Gasser
Joseph Holden
Fortunat Joos
Min Jung Kwon
Ronny Lauerwald
Paul Miller
Shushi Peng
Susan Page
Benjamin Smith
Benjamin Stocker
Britta Sannel
Elodie Salmon
Guy Schurgers
Narasinha Shurpali
David Wårlind
Sebastian Westermann
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Northern peatlands store 300–600 Pg C, of which approximately half are underlain by permafrost. Climate warming and, in some regions, soil drying from enhanced evaporation are progressively threatening this large carbon stock. Here, we assess future CO2 and CH4 fluxes from northern peatlands using five land surface models that explicitly include representation of peatland processes. Under Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 2.6, northern peatlands are projected to remain a net sink of CO2 and climate neutral for the next three centuries. A shift to a net CO2 source and a substantial increase in CH4 emissions are projected under RCP8.5, which could exacerbate global warming by 0.21°C (range, 0.09–0.49°C) by the year 2300. The true warming impact of peatlands might be higher owing to processes not simulated by the models and direct anthropogenic disturbance. Our study highlights the importance of understanding how future warming might trigger high carbon losses from northern peatlands.