Peatland warming strongly increases fine-root growth
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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Peatlands store up to two-thirds of the world’s soil carbon, but this carbon may be released under warmer conditions, creating an important climate feedback. The belowground warming response of peatlands is particularly uncertain even though factors such as plant root growth regulate ecosystem water, carbon, and nutrient cycles. We studied how peatland fine roots respond to warming in a whole-ecosystem experiment. Fine-root growth increased dramatically, +130% for a degree of warming, primarily driven by soil drying. This warming response is 20 times stronger than in other ecosystem experiments, highlighting peatland vulnerability to warming. Our study elucidates large and rapid belowground changes that will affect peatlands of a warmer world and their ability to store carbon into the future.