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Published by: George Howard on Jun 04, 2010
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© The authors 2007Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
Department of Earth Sciences, Göteborg University, Sweden
Centre for Environmental Systems Research, Griffith University, Australia
Franzén, L.G. and Cropp, R.A.
, 2007: The Peatland/ice age Hy-pothesis revised, adding a possible glacial pulse trigger.
Geogr. Ann.,
89 A (4): 301–330.
ABSTRACT. Carbon sequestering in peatlands isbelieved to be a major climate-regulating mecha-nism throughout the late Phanerozoic. Since plantlife first evolved on land, peatlands have been sig-nificant carbon sinks, which could explain signifi-cant parts of the large variations in atmosphericcarbon dioxide observed in various records. Theresult is peat in different degrees of metamorpho-sis, i.e. lignite, hard coal and graphite. Duringphases of extensive glaciations such as the 330–240 Ma Pangea Ice Age, atmospheric carbon diox-ide was critically low. This pattern repeats itselfduring the Pleistocene when carbon dioxide oscil-lates with an amplitude of
. 200–300 ppmv. Thispaper suggests that the ice age cycles during thePleistocene are generated by the interglacialgrowth of peatlands and the subsequent seques-tering of carbon into this terrestrial pool. The finalinitiation of ice age pulses towards the end of inter-glacials, on the other hand, is attributed to the cy-clic influx of cosmic dust to the Earth surface,which in turn regulates cloud formation and the in-coming shortwave radiation. These shorter cycleshave a frequency of
. 1000–1250 years and mightbe connected to sunspot or other low frequencysolar variations. In a wider context the ice age cy-cling could be regarded as an interplay betweenterrestrial life on the high latitudes of the northernhemisphere and the marine subsurface life in thesoutheast.If the results presented here are correct, thepresent global warming might just be the earlypart of a new warm period such as the Bronze Ageand the Roman and Medieval Warm periods. Thiscould be caused by entry into another phase of de-creasing influx rates of cosmic dust. The increas-ing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxidemight have contributed to this warming but, mostimportant of all, it might temporarily have savedus from a new ice age pulse.
Key words:
ice age cycling, peatland lateral growth, carbon sink,cosmic dust, DMS, ice age initiation, 1000 year cycle
Even if the bog Komosse is not of the same size asthe bog Storemosse in Käfsjö and Åker parishes,it still was a more than usually dreary sight, that appeared to my eyes when I, on a dark and rainyday stood at the north-eastern edge of this waste-land, prepared to take a walk across it. I have had the opportunity to see many raised bogs, equal insize to Komosse, and I have often been attracted by their waste and wild beauty. I have admired thewonderful display of colours of the mires of northern Sweden on a bright summer day, whichis beyond all description; I have actually beenstunned at the sight of a heather bog, glowing likea sea of purple at sunset – but I have never seena mire having a, so to speak, scoundrelly appear-ance as this one. Lacking all trees worth speakingof, with the vast grey-brown surface frequentlybroken by holes and grooves filled with black mud and numerous ponds in which water a lead greysky was reflected, without sign of advanced ani-mal life, it just lay there like an enormous, repul-sive polyp, stretching out its dreadful arms and intruding in all directions. It is an open, constant-ly fretting cancer wound to its district and the pri-vate enterprise stands perplexed and vain against this evil spreading over its surroundings. Thewarm-hearted person, now deceased, that once proposed that the government should take imme-diate steps to drain all larger bogs, had he needed new impulses to raise this question again – in-deed he couldn’t have got them better than at theedge of Komosse
(Robert Tolf 1893)Komosse is one of the largest remaining virgin bogcomplexes in Europe and is also one of the moststudied, from different points of views includingvegetation (e.g. Osvald 1923) and hydrology (e.g.Johansson 1976).
© The authors 2007Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
302Over the last 20 years, since the first author pre-sented his thesis on the peat resources of Sweden(Franzén 1985), the main focus of research hasbeen on peatlands’ role in the global carbon cycle.Many articles have been presented on this, in bothnational and international publications (Franzén1992, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006a,b). The outcome of these studies is: (1) a new theoryfor the cyclic appearance of glacials and intergla-cials throughout the Pleistocene; and (2) a theory toexplain rapid climate shifts, e.g. during theHolocene, also providing a mechanism for the on-set of new glacial pulses at the end of interglacials.In the following we will describe the two differenttheories separately starting with the Peatland/IceAge Hypothesis.
The Peatland/Ice Age Hypothesis
The first author has often considered peatlands asnon-static elements in nature. The old sayings thatpeatlands inundate their surroundings came fromforest people and farmers who had struggled againstthis ‘plague’ for centuries. Even if well-know scien-tists such as von Post (1927) and Malmström (1932)had denied this and put out the alarm bell by declar-ing peatlands as ‘dead’ regarding lateral growth, itwas hard to accept this as a simple fact. The first em-bryo to the whole idea of dynamic peatlands aroseduring thesis work (Franzén 1985) when it becameobvious that the stratigraphical cross-sections of most mires are lens-shaped, i.e. the deepest partswere in the centre and they were thinning out towardsthe margins. More than 18500 peatland cross-sec-tions from various road and railroad construction ar-chives in Sweden were studied during this work andthey all conformed, with some minor deviations, tothe same basic elliptic form (Fig. 1). From this ob-servation insight grew that most peatlands must havebeen initiated in a very small central area and even-tually have expanded from that site to occupy largerand larger parts of the surrounding mineral grounds.The only exceptions were the relatively few types of mire that had started as lakes, which had eventuallybeen terrestrialized and developed differently thanthe ones with a ‘drier’ birth. Assuming that the ver-tical peat accumulation would be the same over theentire peatland surface, the thinner peat layers to-wards the margin must be younger than the thickerparts in the centre, and hence the mire must havebeen spreading laterally from the centre towards themargins. With this it was clear that peatlands are dy-namic systems with the ability to grow both vertical-ly and laterally, and that by the latter mechanism theywere increasing their areal extent in a quadraticmode. There was not any clear evidence that this ex-pansion had ceased, except in places where protec-tive drainage had temporarily halted this, or wherethey had found their final position against each otheror towards steep terrain hindrances.The main point in the hypothesis is hence thatpeatlands grow not only vertically but also horizon-tally. Whereas the vertical accumulation is acceptedand well confirmed, the lateral growth has been amatter of debate for over a century. The two main op-posers to this during the hottest year of debate werevon Post and Malmström, as mentioned above. How-ever, with the access of 
C-datings it was later madepossible to confirm the actual existence of a quiterapid growth of peatlands over the surrounding min-eral grounds, caused by marginal paludification.Some studies have measured rates of annual radial
Fig. 1. Two typical raised bog sections showing their general elliptical shape. (A) Ombrogenous bog. (B) Terrestrialization bog (redrawnafter Lundqvist 1955). The various shadings in the upper parts of the stratigraphies principally show various grades of bog peat de-composition
© The authors 2007Journal compilation © 2007 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography
303spread in metres per year (e.g. Aaby 1990; Kuzmin1994) whereas others have claimed a more moderategrowth averaging around 10 cm per annum(Almquist-Jacobsen and Foster 1995; Lode
et al
.2001; Lode 2002). Korhola (1992, 1994, 1995), froma Finnish study, concluded that at certain periods inmire history ‘.. the mire front advancing several me-tres a year – indicating that mire ecosystems are bynature exceptionally expansive elements.’ To com-pare these observations with south Swedish condi-tions, a similar investigation was performed in thebog complex of Komosse. With the aid of 53 cali-brated (Stuiver and Reimer 1993)
C-datings (Ua-12461-12464, Ua12589-12613 and Ua14061-14084) of basal peat layers, a mean lateral growth of 10.6 cm/year could be calculated, since the mire wasinitiated some 7500 years ago (Franzén 2002). Theannual lateral growth rates plotted in 500-year inter-vals are shown in Fig. 2. Sampling section locationcoordinates are given in Table 1 (points 5a, 5b) andmay be viewed in Google Earth™ for example.The new hypothesis on climate regulation bypeatland growth was introduced in 1994 (Franzén1994). This paper was followed by a more thoroughmodelling of the basic principles in 1996 (Franzén
et al
. 1996) and a further paper in 1997 (Franzén 1997).Klinger (1990, 1991) independently presented sim-ilar ideas but with a somewhat different approach,and a joint paper was published in 1996 (Klinger
et al
. 1996). The Komosse datings given above weremade after the first introduction of the hypothesis.The
Peatland/Ice Age Hypothesis
postulates that an ice age cycle is divided into five dis-tinctive phases or stages (Fig. 3): (1) glacial phase;(2) deglaciation phase; (3) vegetation reestablish-ment phase; (4) mire phase; (5) glacial Initiationphase. All of these stages are interconnected to thedevelopment of the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in one way or the other,as has been described from the Antarctic and Arcticice core investigations. Besides the five major phasesthere are three points that are of importance for fur-ther discussion: the fen/bog transition point duringthe mire phase, the
carbon dioxide break point(CO
at the end of the mire phase, and the
glacialpulse initiation point (GPIP)
at the transition be-tween the glacial initiation phase and the glacialphase.The present global distribution of peatlands re-veals a striking correlation with areas intermittent-ly subjected to glaciation (Franzén 1994). In fact,more than 90% of the Earth’s peatlands are foundat latitudes greater than 45°N/S. From a geomor-phologic point of comparison, the extent of peat-lands equals most areas where lakes are common.Peatlands are normally initiated in moist depres-sions in hummocky moraines, glacially erodedbedrock areas (i.e. exhumed deep-weathering land-scapes) and other hydrological closed basins whichare normally associated with glacial activity. Con-trasting this are true fluvial landscape types whichare not generally suitable for peatland formation.Other important conditions for the further develop-ment of peatlands, once initiated, are relatively im-permeable subsoil and plain lands over which theycan advance during lateral growth. Naturally, later-al growth is stopped where mires meet, or is slowedin steep terrain gradients (Franzén 1994).A check of topographical maps of southern Swe-den for landscapes suitable for peatland coveragerevealed that far more land is potentially able to bepaludified in this way than is covered by peatlands
Fig. 2. Annual lateral growth atKarsbomossen, Komosse raisedbog complex, as calculated from53
C datings of basal peat

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