A Bornean peat swamp forest is a net source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere

Tropical peat forests are a globally important reservoir of carbon, but little is known about CO2 exchange on an annual basis. We measured CO2 exchange between the atmosphere and tropical peat swamp forest in Sarawak, Malaysia using the eddy covariance technique over 4 years from 2011 to 2014. The CO2 fluxes varied between seasons and years. A small carbon uptake took place during the rainy season at the beginning of 2011, while a substantial net efflux of >600 g C/m2 occurred over a 2 month period in the middle of the dry season. Conversely, the peat ecosystem was a source of carbon during both the dry and rainy seasons in subsequent years and more carbon was lost during the rainy season relative to the dry season. Our results demonstrate that the forest was a net source of CO2 to the atmosphere during every year of measurement with annual efflux ranging from 183 to 632 g C m−2 year−1, noting that annual flux values were sensitive to gap filling methodology. This is in contrast to the typical view of tropical peat forests which must have acted as net C sinks over time scales of centuries to millennia to create the peat deposits. Path analyses revealed that the gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (RE) were primarily affected by vapour pressure deficit (VPD). Results suggest that future increases in VPD could further reduce the C sink strength and result in additional net CO2 losses from this tropical peat swamp forest in the absence of plant acclimation to such changes in atmospheric dryness.
  • Authors: Tang, A.C.I., Melling, L., Stoy, P.C., Musin, K.K., Aeries, E.B., Waili, J.W., Shimizu, M., Poulter, B., Hirata, R.
  • Author Affiliation: Sarawak Tropical Peat Research Institute, Montana State University, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Civil Engineering Research Institute for Cold Region Japan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, National Institute for Environmental Studies of Japan
  • Subjects: peat, swamps, tropical forests, peatlands, carbon dioxide, emissions, carbon sinks
  • Publication type: Journal Article
  • Source: Global Change Biology 26(12): 6931-6944
  • Year: 2020
  • DOI:
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