A strong mitigation scenario maintains climate neutrality of northern peatlands

Chunjing Qiu, Philippe Ciais, Dan Zhu, Bertrand Guenet, Jinfeng Chang, Nitin Chaudhary, Thomas Kleinen, Xin Yu Li, Jurek Müller, Yi Xi, Wenxin Zhang, Ashley Ballantyne, Simon C. Brewer, Victor Brovkin, Dan J. Charman, Adrian Gustafson, Angela V. Gallego-Sala, Thomas Gasser, Joseph Holden, Fortunat JoosMin Jung Kwon, Ronny Lauerwald, Paul A. Miller, Shushi Peng, Susan Page, Benjamin Smith, Benjamin D. Stocker, A. Britta K. Sannel, Elodie Salmon, Guy Schurgers, Narasinha J. Shurpali, David Wårlind, Sebastian Westermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)86-97
Number of pages12
JournalOne Earth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 21 2022


  • carbon dioxide
  • carbon-cycle feedback
  • land surface models
  • long-term climate change
  • methane
  • peatland
  • permafrost


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