Credit: CC0 Public Domain A new way to take the pulse of carbon emissions could help track how the industrial development of peatlands contributes to climate change, as well as measure their recovery once development ends.
In a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers led by the University of Glasgow discuss how they have used carbon-14 dating to determine for the first time the age of carbon dioxide being released from peatland sites.
While the process by which peatlands release carbon into rivers is well-understood, the research team were keen to see if these rivers then release old peatland carbon to the atmosphere as gas.
To do so, they collected samples of carbon dioxide being released from the water draining from the peatland and brought them back for analysis at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC) in East Kilbride.
Prof Waldron said: "We were keen to determine whether we could use carbon-14 dating to measure the pulse of the carbon cycle at both peatland sites.
"There's still lots of further research for us to do, including trying to pin down more precisely when peatland sites begin to capture carbon again after being disturbed, which will widen the potential uses of this tool to take the pulse of peatlands."