Natural soil pipes release peat carbon to atmosphere



A significant amount of organic carbon and carbon dioxide is stored within the partially decomposed plant remains that make up peatlands in northern climates. If this carbon were released to the atmosphere, it could affect climate. In peatlands, soil pipes—naturally occurring tubes of various sizes—could provide a route for deeply buried carbon to escape to the atmosphere. To learn more about the sources of carbon being emitted to the atmosphere in peatlands, Billett et al. measured carbon amounts and isotope ratios in particulate carbon, dissolved organic carbon, methane, and carbon dioxide released from three natural peat pipes and the downstream catchment outlet of a small peatland in northern England. Isotope ratios provide an indication of the source and age of the carbon; generally, deeper carbon is older.