Peat as a potential analogue for the long-term evolution in landfills
2001 (English)In: Earth-Science Reviews, ISSN 0012-8252, E-ISSN 1872-6828, Vol. 53, no 02-jan, 95-147 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
A survey of the existing studies on peat and its decomposition processes is presented with the aim to characterise the long-term behaviour of peat accumulating systems. The chemical and physical characteristics of peat together with its accumulation and decay processes have been analysed. Peat is an acidic mixture of dead and decomposed. mainly vegetable, matter formed in boggy areas; it is the youngest and least altered component of the combustible rocks and is characterised by the lowest content of fixed carbon and the highest content of volatile constituents. Peat is formed by degeneration processes under exclusion of atmospheric oxygen by the action of water; the speed of formation depends upon the climatic and environmental conditions. In most peatlands two layers can be characterised: the aerobic acrotelm and the anaerobic catotelm, their relative importance being controlled mainly by the position of the water table. In the acrotelm the aerobic processes are responsible for the loss of up to 90% of the original mass, Degeneration in the acidic and anaerobic catotelm is still imperfectly characterised even though the catotelm is the real site of peat accumulation. Most of the recent literature considers peat as composed of easily degradable compounds, e.g. polysaccharides. and recalcitrant matter (lignin and complex aromatics). The lone-term destiny of peat has not been sufficiently characterised: although in a large majority of cases it seems probable that peat decomposes completely (even though slowly) provided that it is given a sufficiently long residence rime in the catotelm, some cases can still be interpreted as examples of simple accumulation. The rates of influx of oxygen and hence the degradation of organic matter into both saturated and partially saturated peat have been estimated. The depletion rate is about 4500 g m(-1) year(-1) for partially saturated peat. The average depletion rate of the peat for this case will then be such that it will take on the order of 5 to 50 years to degrade half of the organics in a 10 cm partially saturated layer. For the water-saturated case the depletion rate varies between 8 and 12 g m(-2) year(-1), which is considerably lower than in the partially saturated region. The models used to analyse the field and laboratory data on generation, diffusion and emission of methane and carbon dioxide indicate that laboratory data and field observations agree reasonably well. It is suggested that peat-accumulating ecosystems may be valuable natural analogues for the study of the long-term destiny of industrial and municipal solid wastes. Accurate studies of active mires together with an ad hoc review of the existing literature give valuable insights in this problem. Peatlands might then be considered as organic waste deposition experiments lasting up to several thousands years.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2001. Vol. 53, no 02-jan, 95-147 p.
peat decomposition, peat accumulation, carbon flux, long-term, natural analogue, carbon-dioxide evolution, winter methane dynamics, ecosystem co2 exchange, oligotrophic pine fen, sphagnum-derived peat, temperate poor fen, swedish raised bog, northern minnesota, boreal peatlands, humic substances
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-20540ISI: 000168159000003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-20540DiVA: diva2:339236
QC 201005252010-08-102010-08-10Bibliographically approved