Wetland chronosequence as a model of peatland development: Vegetation succession, peat and carbon accumulation


Model validation experiments are fundamental to ensure that the peat growth models correspond with the diversity in nature. We evaluated the Holocene Peatland Model (HPM) simulation against the field observations from a chronosequence of peatlands and peat core data. The ongoing primary peatland formation on the isostatically rising coast of Finland offered us an exceptional opportunity to study the peatland succession along a spatial continuum and to compare it with the past succession revealed by vertical peat sequences. The current vegetation assemblages, from the seashore to a 3000 year old bog, formed a continuum from minerotrophic to ombrotrophic plant communities. A similar sequence of plant communities was found in the palaeovegetation. The distribution of plant functional types was related to peat thickness and water-table depth (WTD) supporting the assumptions in HPM, though there were some differences between the field data and HPM. Palaeobotanical evidence from the oldest site showed a rapid fen–bog transition, indicated by a coincidental decrease in minerotrophic plant functional types and an increase in ombrotrophic plant functional types. The long-term mean rate of carbon (C) accumulation varied from 2 to 34 g C/m2 per yr, being highest in the intermediate age cohorts. Mean nitrogen (N) accumulation varied from 0.1 to 3.9 g N/m2 per yr being highest in the youngest sites. WTD was the deepest in the oldest sites and its variation there was temporally the least but spatially the highest. Evaluation of the HPM simulations against the field observations indicated that HPM reasonably well simulates peatland development, except for very young peatlands.


Earth Sciences

Publication Date


Journal Title

The Holocene


Sage Publications

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type