C-PEAT - Carbon in Peat on EArth through Time



Peatlands played a key role in the global carbon cycle during the Holocene and previous interglacials. High-latitude and tropical peatlands have acted as net long-term atmospheric sinks for carbon dioxide (CO2). However, key uncertainties remain regarding many fundamental patterns and processes. C-PEAT aims to address these uncertainties.


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- Expand the C-PEAT database to the tropics and extra-tropics, where humans are a major agent of change in tropical peatlands.
- Predict peatland responses to natural and anthropogenic disturbance.
- Further develop and promote the use of multi-proxy peatland records as paleoclimatic archives.


Julie Loisel (Texas A&M Uni., USA, lead)
Angela Gallego-Sala
(Uni. of Exeter, UK, lead)
Dave Beilman
(Uni. of Hawaii, USA)
Juan Carlos Benavides (Uni. of Pontificia Javeriana, Colombia)
Victor Brovkin (Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Germany)
Phil Camill (Bowdoin College, USA)
Dan Charman (Uni. of Exeter, UK)
Sakonvan (Moo) Chawchai (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand)
Michelle Garneau (Uni. of Quebec at Montreal, Canada)
Wang Guoping (CAS, China)
Atte Korhola (Uni. of Helsinki, Finland)
David Large (Uni. of Nottingham, UK)
Susan Page (University of Leicester, UK)
Zicheng Yu (Lehigh University, USA)
Yan Zhao (CAS, China)


Phase 1
Phase 2

Peatlands have played a key role in the global carbon cycle during the Holocene and previous interglacials. High-latitude and tropical peatlands have acted as net long-term atmospheric sinks for carbon dioxide (CO2).


A peat bog in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, southern South America. Photo credit: Zicheng Yu.

However, key uncertainties remain regarding many fundamental patterns and processes, such as:

1. Peatland expansion rates and processes following previous deglaciations

2. The role of early-deglacial northern peatlands and tropical peatlands in controlling the global methane budget

3. The main controls on peat formation and CO2 sequestration in tropical peatlands

4. The sensitivity of carbon sequestration potential of peatlands in high-latitude vs. tropical regions under changing climate and land-use changes.

Altogether, these uncertainties limit our capacity to:

a. provide bottom-up evidence that could be reconciled with top-down inferences on the importance of peatlands in global biogeochemical cycles,

b. identify benchmarks for the evaluation of carbon cycle models, and

c. integrate peatland dynamics in land-cover change models.

C-PEAT begins Phase 2 in 2019 to continue working on these issues.

C-PEAT is in the process of making its entire peatland database available on WDS-PANGAEA; 164 sites are readily available under the project name PAGES_C-PEAT. Those same peat profiles have also been ingested in the International Soil Carbon Network’s database (ISCN) and are accessible on their website.

These two data sharing activities took place during a "data hackathon".


In February 2020, C-PEAT announced a new collaborative project called HOLOPEATFIRE, which focusses on peatlands fires in the Holocene, and seeks potential contributions and assistance.

The aim is to carry out a global-scale analysis of peatland fires (tropics to the poles) through time and write it up as a multi-author paper for Nature-group/PNAS or similar. Everyone who contributes data or other expertise will be an author on the work as default.

The steering group includes Graeme Swindles, Angela Gallego-Sala, Julie Loisel, Mark Hardiman, Phil Camill, Paul Morris, Maarten Blaauw, and Tom Roland.

Please email Graeme Swindles: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any comments, thoughts or suggestions, or to declare your interest in contributing, or if you would like to be involved more in the steering group, analysis contribution, or any other aspects of the project.

Read more about the HOLOPEATFIRE project here.

Plus, if you have any charcoal data from a peatland with an associated chronology and would like to be involved, please contact Graeme for the form template. They would like all data to be submitted by September 2020.

Overall working group aims

The C-PEAT Working Group aims to facilitate the interactions of international peat C researchers working on peat of all ages, including ecosystem and global modeling scientists. We continue to focus our effort on the Holocene because of the abundance of information available, but we also start our exploration of pre-Holocene peats using what we have learned from the studies of Holocene-age peatlands.

C-PEAT aims to synthesize data and knowledge on all topics related to peat carbon, and for the current phase has set up the following topical groups:
1. Tropical peatlands
2. Permafrost peat C stock
3. Lost peats underwater or on land
4. Peat during glacial-interglacial cycle
5. Pre-Quaternary peats
6. Data analysis methods
7. Peatland process modeling

Phase 2 workshop plans

The main outline and timing of workshops is as follows:


- INQUA 2019 (Dublin, Ireland): Peatland dynamics through time: from low to high latitudes. Accepted C-PEAT II session at the 20th INQUA Congress in July 2019.
- C-PEAT II: Peatlands during the Anthropocene and beyond (Exeter, 2019). This will be a PAGES meeting organized by A Gallego-Sala and Julie Loisel in summer in the UK. The aim is to develop a ‘peatland in the anthropocene’ framework to analyze peatland dynamics since the Industrial revolution. This includes discussing: a) the formation of new peatlands, b) the release of possible pollutants that have been locked away in permafrost (e.g. gold digging in the Canadian Arctic), c) fires and d) C accumulation in recent past, e) effects of drainage and land-use change in peatlands. Additionally, we aim to initiate the integration of peat-based data with peatland flux data from natural sites, field experiments, and laboratory incubations and to develop a conceptual model describing peatland responses to climate change.


- Tropical peatland processes, Thailand: a PAGES meeting organized by Sakonvan (Moo) Chawchai and Angela Gallego-Sala concerned with long-term patterns and processes that govern peat formation in tropical peatlands. We are particularly interested to (1) compare and contrast those said processes between high-latitude and tropical peatlands, (2) connect our work with land-use change analysis, (3) develop, along with tropical stakeholders concerned with peatland resource management, a valuation system to quantify peatland ecosystem service and discuss the potential for a 'carbon protection policy' (similar to biodiversity protection), and (4) publish a special issue designated to tropical peats.

2021 and 2022

- Synthesis and Linking to modelling focus, April: a short meeting at the EGU Annual Meeting
- December: a short meeting at the AGU Fall Meeting.
- A final synthesis meeting (location to be confirmed but possibly Helsinki).

Learn more and participate

Subscribe to the C-PEAT mailing list here.

This group is open to anyone who is interested, to participate contact the Group Leaders.