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Browsing by Subject "plant macrofossil analysis"

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  • Hyppölä, Ronja (2019)
    Peatlands are roughly divided into bogs, which are dry and ombotrophic, and fens, which are wet and minerotrophic. Bog vegetation typically consists of dwarf shrubs, lichens, and especially of peat forming white mosses Sphagna spp. White mosses, yet different taxa, also occur on fens and are accompanied by various sedges Carex spp. and Eriophorum spp. Human activities are changing the climate. These activities increase greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, which in turn causes global climate warming. It is not yet resolved how the warming is affecting the ecosystems and what are the response mechanisms. Peatlands cover a considerable area, i.e. 4 million square kilometres of the Northern hemisphere, including continuous, intermittent or sporadic permafrost, the latter especially vulnerable to thawing. Since their formation following the deglaciation ca. 11 700 years ago, the Northern hemisphere peatlands have acted as carbon sinks storing great amount of atmospheric carbon as accumulated peat. This is due to the slow decomposition rate under cold climate. Simultaneously peatlands release carbon back to the atmosphere via microbial activity, which is largely regulated by hydrological conditions and associated plant composition. Carbon dioxide (CO2) release in aerobic conditions happens mainly through respiration of the living organisms, while in wet anaerobic conditions methane (CH4) is released due to methanogenic processes. The rate of peat, i.e. carbon, accumulation and release has varied over time due to for instance prevailing climate conditions. Mire surface is a mosaic of hydrological and thus vegetational patterns. Different taxa thrive in different growing conditions and furthermore, respectively, can affect the carbon dynamics. While long-term autogenic succession changes surface vegetation and microtopography, also allogenic forcing, such as climate and warming alter habitat conditions and for instance lead to permafrost thawing. Currently, especially thawing of permafrost is a concern worth noticing. Thawing ice might cause water saturated conditions, which in turn may lead to increase in methane emissions. Past changes in prevailing vegetation can be studied through stratigraphical examinations of peat. The accumulated peat layers reflect drier and wetter conditions, and these can be identified by distinguishing the remaining plant macrofossils. The reconstructed changes in past vegetation can be dated with radiometric methods and then compared with paleoecological climate data or meteorological measurements to evaluate if the changes in vegetation and carbon accumulation correspond to changes in climate. In this study I investigate the relationship between past changes and peatland vegetation, carbon accumulation and climate. The focus time period covers the last centuries. My thesis consists of two case studies from northern Sweden permafrost peatland areas, Abisko and Tavvavuoma. The two main taxa, which dominated the plant assemblage were Sphagnum fuscum and Dicranum elongatum. In Tavvavuoma the plant composition varied more than composition in Abisko. Also, the oldest peat section was from Tavvavuoma, where bottom age of the peat section was ca. 8000 years old. The peat and carbon accumulation data indicate similar patterns for both study sites. No clear signs of the generally warmer Medieval Climate Anomaly or colder Little Ice Age were found in my data, but at both study sites the warming after Little Ice Age has shifted vegetation towards a drier assemblage and this has affected the carbon accumulation rates positively especially since the turn to 20th century. According to my data, it can be suggested that vegetation composition and carbon accumulation follow the climatological and thus hydrological conditions, thus my results are in accordance with earlier studies.