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A multi-proxy peat study of Holocene vegetation history, bog development, and carbon accumulation on northern Vancouver Island, Pacific coast of Canada

Lacourse, Terri, Davies, Marissa A
Holocene epoch, Nuphar, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Sphagnum, Tsuga heterophylla, bogs, bulk density, carbon, climate, coasts, coniferous forests, fungi, microfossils, nitrogen, paleoecology, peat, peatlands, pollen, rain forests, shrubs, stable isotopes, temporal variation, water table, British Columbia
We present a multi-proxy paleoenvironmental study on a 10,400 cal. yr peat sequence from an ombrotrophic bog in coastal British Columbia, Canada. Pollen, non-pollen palynomorph, plant macrofossil, and physicochemical analyses (bulk density, %C, %N, δ¹³C, and δ¹⁵N isotopes) were used to document changes in vegetation, bog development, and carbon and nitrogen accumulation. Pollen assemblages indicate that regional vegetation in the warm, relatively dry early Holocene was mixed coniferous forest with scattered Pseudotsuga menziesii. Herbaceous peat with a C:N of ~28, combined with Nuphar microfossils and relatively high %N, suggests the presence of a herb-dominated peatland with standing water and/or bog pools. Carbon and nitrogen accumulation were at their highest during this early Holocene period at mean rates of 30.6 and 1.2 g/m²/cal. yr, respectively. By 8000 cal. yr BP and under a cooler, wetter climate, northern Vancouver Island supported Tsuga heterophylla rainforest similar to today. Decreasing relative water table, inferred from testate amoebae and fungal remains, facilitated the establishment of a Sphagnum bog by 8000 cal. yr BP with abundant ericaceous shrubs after 5000 cal. yr BP. Temporal variation in carbon accumulation rates corresponds with changes in plant functional types and hydrological conditions: rates were lowest in the early to mid-Holocene during accumulation of Sphagnum peat (7.1 g/m²/cal. yr) and increased in late Holocene ligneous peat (12.4 g/m²/cal. yr). Our multi-proxy approach not only demonstrates the overarching control of climate on bog development and carbon and nitrogen accumulation, with seasonality likely playing a major role, but also highlights the strong influence of autogenic processes at a local scale.