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More information about Peatlands


In Europe, peatlands have been much affected by peat harvesting or drainage for agriculture and forestry (Chapman et al., 2003), and the preservation of the remaining natural sites or the restoration of damaged peatlands is now a EU priority (Raeymaekers, 2000). In addition to direct human impacts, peatlands are currently exposed to indirect human impact such as climate change and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen, which will affect their structure (e.g. vegetation and soil communities) and functioning (e.g. C balance) and possibly invalidate previous findings under steady state climate setting. Indeed, those peatlands that are currently recovering from past damage  (e.g. trough spontaneous regeneration or as a result of restoration) may fail to recover fully (Samaritani et al., 2010). As shifts in vegetation are slow and even the presence of keystone species such as Sphagnum sp. do not necessarily indicate the full recovery of a C-sequestering function (Francez, 2000), other indicators such as testate amoebae (Protists) are being considered as early indicators of ecosystem dynamics and functioning (Buttler et al., 1996; Laggoun-Défarge et al., 2008).

Relationships between peatlands and climate are presently tested experimentally in several parts of the World. It is still not clear how fast peatlands respond to changes in temperature and droughts in continental climate setting (Booth et al., 2010) and, since continental regions account for a significant proportion of all northern hemisphere peatlands (e.g. much of Russia and North America), consequently how this will affect global C cycling. These questions can therefore be considered as research priorities to strengthen the value of peatlands as indicators of past, present and future global change and to better understand peatland ecosystem/biodiversity response to climate warming.

Our project has strong scientific links with at least five present and past European projects (mentioned below) in which Partners are or have been involved.

1. PEATWARM “Effects of experimental warming on carbon sink function of a temperate pristine mire » - French ANR national project (

2. CLIMIRESIB project. Collaboration scheme between CNRS/INSU of University of Orléans, F. Laggoun-Défarge, and the Yugra State University, E. Lapshina.

3. PEATBOG project “Pollution, precipitation and temperature impacts on peatland biodiversity and biogeochemistry (

4. RECIPE “Reconciling commercial exploitation of peat with biodiversity in peatland ecosystems” – 5th Framework EU project 2002-2006 (No. EVK2-CT-2002-00154) (

5. CLIMABOG (Swiss National Science Foundation – SNSF, 2010-2012) – “Effects of climate change on plant-microbe interactions for nutrient acquisition in bogs: implications for carbon and nutrient dynamics”.

6. MILLENNIUM – European climate of the last millennium ‘Millennium’ Sub-Priority 6.3 – Global Change and Ecosystems SUSTDEV-2004-

Cited references:

Belyea, L. R. and Malmer, N. 2004. Carbon sequestration in peatland: patterns and mechanisms of response to climate change. Global Change Biology 10, 1043-1051.

Bragazza, L., Buttler, A., Siegenthaler, A. and Mitchell, E.A.D., 2009. Plant Litter Decomposition and Nutrient Release in Peatlands. In: A.J. Baird, L.R. Belyea, X. Comas, A.S. Reeve and L.D. Slater (Editors), Carbon Cycling in Northern Peatlands. American Geophysical Union, pp. 99-110.

Booth, R. K., Jackson, S. T. and Notaro, M. 2010. Using peatland archives to test paleoclimate hypotheses. PAGES News 18, 6-8.

Buttler, A., Warner, B. G., Grosvernier, P. and Matthey, Y. 1996. Vertical patterns of testate amoebae (Protozoa: Rhizopoda) and peat forming vegetation on cutover bogs in the Jura, Switzerland. New Phytologist 134, 371-382.

Chapman, S. J., Buttler, A., Francez, A.-J., Laggoun-Défarge, F., Vasander, H., Schloter, M., Combe, J., Grosvernier, P., Harms, H., Epron, D., Gilbert, D. and Mitchell, E. A. D. 2003. Exploitation of northern peatlands and biodiversity maintenance: a conflict between economy and ecology. Front. Ecol. Environ. 1, 525-532.

De Jong, R., Blaauw, M., Chambers, F. M., Christensen, T. R., De Vleeschouwer, F., Finsinger, W., Fronzek, S., Johansson, M., Kokfelt, U., Lamentowicz, M., LeRoux, G., Mitchell, E. A. D., Mau-quoy, D., Nichols, J. E., Samaritani, E. and van Geel, B. 2010: Climate and Wetlands. In Dodson, J., editor, Changing Climates, Earth Systems and Society. Series: International Year of Planet Earth, Heidelberg: Springer.

Davidson E.A. & Janssens I.A. (2006). Temperature sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition and feedbacks to climate change. Nature 440, 165-173.

Francez, A.J. 2000. Carbon dynamics in mires, from Sphagnum to greenhouse effect. Annee Biol. 39, 205-270.

Frolking, S. and Roulet, N. T. 2007. Holocene radioactive forcing impact of northern peatland carbon accumulation and methane emissions. Global Change Biology 13, 1079-1088.

Laggoun-Défarge, F., Mitchell, E., Gilbert, D., Disnar, J. R., Comont, L., Warner, B. G. and Buttler, A. 2008a. Cut-over peatland regeneration assessment using organic matter and microbial indicators (bacteria and testate amoebae). Journal of Applied Ecology 45, 716-727.

Marris, E. 2010. New UN science body to monitor biosphere. Nature 465.

Raeymaekers, G. 2000: Conserving mires in the European Union. Luxembourg: Ecosystems LTD.

Rydin, H. and Jeglum, J. 2006: The biology of peatlands. Oxford University Press.

Samaritani, E., Siegenthaler, A., Yli-Petäys, M., A., B., Christin, P.-A. and Mitchell, E. A. D. 2010. Seasonal net ecosystem carbon exchange of a regenerating cutover bog in the Swiss Jura Mountains. Restoration Ecology in press.

Turunen, J., Tomppo, E., Tolonen, K. and Reinikainen, A. 2002. Estimating carbon accumulation rates of undrained mires in Finland – application to boreal and subarctic regions. The Holocene 12, 69–80.

Yu, Z. 2006. Power laws governing hydrology and carbon dynamics in northern peatlands. Global and Planetary Change 53, 169-175.


Joint research project
Experimental site

Aim of the project


Innovative character



Work Packages

Experimental setting and environmental monitoring
Vegetation monitoring, plant standing biomass, net primary production and total nutrient content in plants

Microbial biomass and microbial diversity

Soil enzymatic activities

Micrometeorology, carbon accumulation, soil respiration and litter decomposition

Microcosm experiment (Neuchâtel)

Drought palaeohydrology and carbon accumulation during the last 1000 years


Advisory board



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