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The stoichiometry of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in peat

Moore, Tim R.; Large, David; Talbot, Julie; Wang, Meng; Riley, John L.

The stoichiometry of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen in peat Thumbnail


Tim R. Moore

Abbott Professor of Geoscience

Julie Talbot

Meng Wang

John L. Riley


Carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O) form ~90% by mass of peat, a product of the input of plant tissues and litter and the output of decomposition under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. We examined patterns of these elements, as the O:C and H:C atomic ratios, in over 1,300 peat samples collected from over 400 profiles in Ontario, Canada, representing bogs, fens, and swamps. The overall O:C ratio decreased from the surface (0.6 to 0.7) to ~0.5 at a depth of 50 cm and showed little further change to a depth of 5 m. In contrast, the H:C ratio decreased only slightly (1.30 to 1.25) over the top 1 m and showed no further significant decline with depth. The C oxidative state (Cox) and oxidation ratio showed strong decreases and increases, respectively, with depth with most changes occurring in the top 0.5 m. The O:C ratio, and Cox and oxidation ratio values were significantly correlated with the von Post humification index, with most changes occurring in index values 1 through 4, the latter representing a slight degree of decomposition. Collation of the Ontario peats with other data sets revealed the very large range in O:C and H:C values, with a general decrease from temperate to tropical and subtropical peatlands. Estimation of the O:C and H:C ratios of input (litter) and output (mineralization to CO2, methanogenesis to CH4 and CO2, and loss as dissolved organic C) allowed an estimation of the degree of decomposition or C loss.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 10, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 17, 2018
Publication Date Oct 2, 2018
Deposit Date Nov 20, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 20, 2018
Journal Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Print ISSN 2169-8953
Electronic ISSN 2169-8961
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 123
Issue 10
Pages 3101-3110
Keywords Bog; Fen; Swamp; Decomposition; Wetlands
Public URL
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