Quantitative information on ecosystem responses associated with climate change is a prerequisite for the development of ecological forecasting tools for policy makers to evaluate safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Providing answers to the following overarching science questions will inform higher-order models of vegetation change for projected future climates.
- Will deep belowground warming in the future release 10,000 years of accumulated carbon from peatlands that store 1/3 of the earth’s terrestrial carbon? At what rate?
- Will releases of C be in the form of CO2 or CH4 with 30 times the warming potential?
- Are peatland ecosystems and organisms vulnerable to atmospheric and climatic change? What changes are likely?
- Will ecosystem services (e.g., regional water balance) be compromised or enhanced by atmospheric and climatic change?
Answering these questions for keystone ecosystems will inform higher-order models of vegetation responses under projected levels of climate variability and atmospheric change.