Potential shift from a carbon sink to a source in Amazonian peatlands under a changing climate

Sirui Wang, Qianlai Zhuang, Outi Lähteenoja, Frederick C. Draper, Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Amazonian peatlands store a large amount of soil organic carbon (SOC), and its fate under a future changing climate is unknown. Here, we use a process-based peatland biogeochemistry model to quantify the carbon accumulation for peatland and nonpeatland ecosystems in the Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin (PMFB) in the Peruvian Amazon from 12,000 y before present to AD 2100. Model simulations indicate that warming accelerates peat SOC loss, while increasing precipitation accelerates peat SOC accumulation at millennial time scales. The uncertain parameters and spatial variation of climate are significant sources of uncertainty to modeled peat carbon accumulation. Under warmer and presumably wetter conditions over the 21st century, SOC accumulation rate in the PMFB slows down to 7.9 (4.3–12.2) g·C·m−2·y−1 from the current rate of 16.1 (9.1–23.7) g·C·m−2·y−1, and the region may turn into a carbon source to the atmosphere at −53.3 (−66.8 to −41.2) g·C·m−2·y1 (negative indicates source), depending on the level of warming. Peatland ecosystems show a higher vulnerability than nonpeatland ecosystems, as indicated by the ratio of their soil carbon density changes (ranging from 3.9 to 5.8). This is primarily due to larger peatlands carbon stocks and more dramatic responses of their aerobic and anaerobic decompositions in comparison with nonpeatland ecosystems under future climate conditions. Peatland and nonpeatland soils in the PMFB may lose up to 0.4 (0.32–0.52) Pg·C by AD 2100 with the largest loss from palm swamp. The carbon-dense Amazonian peatland may switch from a current carbon sink into a source in the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12407-12412
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number49
StatePublished - Dec 4 2018


  • Carbon
  • Climate
  • Modeling
  • Peatland
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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