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Terrestrial organic carbon storage in a British moorland


and present address: Dr Mark H. Garnett, NERC Radiocarbon Laboratory, Scottish Enterprise Technology Park, Rankine Avenue, East Kilbride G75 0QF, UK, tel +44/1355 260037, fax +44/1355 229829, e-mail


Accurate estimates for the size of terrestrial organic carbon (C) stores are needed to determine their importance in regulating atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The C stored in vegetation and soil components of a British moorland was evaluated in order to: (i) investigate the importance of these ecosystems for C storage and (ii) test the accuracy of the United Kingdom's terrestrial C inventory. The area of vegetation and soil types was determined using existing digitized maps and a Geographical Information System (GIS). The importance of evaluating C storage using 2D area projections, as opposed to true surface areas, was investigated and found to be largely insignificant. Vegetation C storage was estimated from published results of productivity studies at the site supplemented by field sampling to evaluate soil C storage. Vegetation was found to be much less important for C storage than soil, with peat soils, particularly Blanket bog, containing the greatest amounts of C. Whilst the total amount of C in vegetation was similar to the UK national C inventory's estimate for the same area, the national inventory estimate for soil C was over three times higher than the value derived in the current study. Because the UK's C inventory can be considered relatively accurate compared to many others, the results imply that current estimates for soil C storage, at national and global scales, should be treated with caution.

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