Some unsolved problems in peatland ecology. Plant growth and decay, vegetation.

Eville Gorham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because of their peculiarly autogenous nature, and because they have received much less study than terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, peatlands pose a number of major problems. The control of plant growth and decay - and hence of peat accumulation - by environmental factors such as climate, topography, and nutrient inputs from the atmosphere and the soil is poorly understood. The delicate interaction of plant growth and decomposition wiht surface and ground water flow to generate complex landscape patterns is even more mysterious. The role of peat as a geochemical sink has not been well worked out, nutrient cycling has been little studied by modern mass-balance techniques. Gaseous fluxes in particular are poorly known. Autecological studies of the major peatland plants and animals are very scarce, for example it is not known whether the growth rates of the peat-forming species of Sphagnum are limited to supplies of specific nutrients. Life histories are not well known for important species of palnts and animals, nor do we have more than a broad general understanding of the factors that control their distributions and associations.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)533-541
Number of pages9
JournalLe Naturaliste canadien
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1982


  • Peatland ecology and biogeochemistry

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