Thawing permafrost in the sub-Arctic has implications for the physical stability and biological dynamics of peatland ecosystems. This study provides an analysis of how permafrost thawing and subsequent vegetation changes in a sub-Arctic Swedish mire have changed the net exchange of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide (CO2) and CH4 over the past three decades. Images of the mire (ca. 17 ha) and surroundings taken with film sensitive in the visible and the near infrared portion of the spectrum, [i.e. colour infrared (CIR) aerial photographs from 1970 and 2000] were used. The results show that during this period the area covered by hummock vegetation decreased by more than 11% and became replaced by wet-growing plant communities. The overall net uptake of C in the vegetation and the release of C by heterotrophic respiration might have increased resulting in increases in both the growing season atmospheric CO2 sink function with about 16% and the CH4 emissions with 22%. Calculating the flux as CO2 equivalents show that the mire in 2000 has a 47% greater radiative forcing on the atmosphere using a 100-year time horizon. Northern peatlands in areas with thawing sporadic or discontinuous permafrost are likely to act as larger greenhouse gas sources over the growing season today than a few decades ago because of increased CH4 emissions.
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