Latitude, Elevation, and Mean Annual Temperature Predict Peat Organic Matter Chemistry at a Global Scale

Brittany A. Verbeke, Louis J. Lamit, Erik A. Lilleskov, Suzanne B. Hodgkins, Nathan Basiliko, Evan S. Kane, Roxane Andersen, Rebekka R.E. Artz, Juan C. Benavides, Brian W. Benscoter, Werner Borken, Luca Bragazza, Stefani M. Brandt, Suzanna L. Bräuer, Michael A. Carson, Dan Charman, Xin Chen, Beverley R. Clarkson, Alexander R. Cobb, Peter ConveyJhon del Águila Pasquel, Andrea S. Enriquez, Howard Griffiths, Samantha P. Grover, Charles F. Harvey, Lorna I. Harris, Christina Hazard, Dominic Hodgson, Alison M. Hoyt, John Hribljan, Jyrki Jauhiainen, Sari Juutinen, Klaus Holger Knorr, Randall K. Kolka, Mari Könönen, Tuula Larmola, Carmody K. McCalley, James McLaughlin, Tim R. Moore, Nadia Mykytczuk, Anna E. Normand, Virginia Rich, Nigel Roulet, Jessica Royles, Jasmine Rutherford, David S. Smith, Mette M. Svenning, Leho Tedersoo, Pham Q. Thu, Carl C. Trettin, Eeva Stiina Tuittila, Zuzana Urbanová, Ruth K. Varner, Meng Wang, Zheng Wang, Matt Warren, Magdalena M. Wiedermann, Shanay Williams, Joseph B. Yavitt, Zhi Guo Yu, Zicheng Yu, Jeffrey P. Chanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Peatlands contain a significant fraction of global soil carbon, but how these reservoirs will respond to the changing climate is still relatively unknown. A global picture of the variations in peat organic matter chemistry will aid our ability to gauge peatland soil response to climate. The goal of this research is to test the hypotheses that (a) peat carbohydrate content, an indicator of soil organic matter reactivity, will increase with latitude and decrease with mean annual temperatures, (b) while peat aromatic content, an indicator of recalcitrance, will vary inversely, and (c) elevation will have a similar effect to latitude. We used Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy to examine variations in the organic matter functional groups of 1034 peat samples collected from 10 to 20, 30–40, and 60–70 cm depths at 165 individual sites across a latitudinal gradient of 79°N–65°S and from elevations of 0–4,773 m. Carbohydrate contents of high latitude peat were significantly greater than peat originating near the equator, while aromatic content showed the opposite trend. For peat from similar latitudes but different elevations, the carbohydrate content was greater and aromatic content was lower at higher elevations. Higher carbohydrate content at higher latitudes indicates a greater potential for mineralization, whereas the chemical composition of low latitude peat is consistent with their apparent relative stability in the face of warmer temperatures. The combination of low carbohydrates and high aromatics at warmer locations near the equator suggests the mineralization of high latitude peat until reaching recalcitrance under a new temperature regime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GB007057
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • 0428 carbon cycling (4806)
  • 0486 soils/pedology (1865)
  • 0497 wetlands (1890)
  • 1030 geochemical cycles (0330)
  • 1055 organic and biogenic geochemistry
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • aromatics
  • carbohydrate
  • o-alkyl carbon
  • peatlands
  • soil carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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