Recent research indicates that accumulation and release of biogenic gas from northern peatlands may substantially affect future climate. Sudden release of free-phase gas bubbles into the atmosphere may preclude the conversion of methane to carbon dioxide in the uppermost oxic layer of the peat, resulting in greater contribution of methane to the atmosphere than is currently estimated. The hydrology of these peatlands also affects and is affected by this process, especially when gas is released suddenly and episodically. Indirect hydrological evidence indicates that ebullitive gas releases are relatively frequent in some peatlands and time-averaged rates may be significantly greater than diffusive releases. Estimates of free-phase gas contained in peat have ranged from 0 to nearly 20% of the peat volume. Abrupt changes in the volume of gas may alter hydraulic gradients and movement of water and solutes in peat, which in turn could alter composition and fluxes of the gas. Peat surfaces also move vertically and horizontally in response to accumulation and release of free-phase gas. Future research should address the distribution, temporal variability, and relative significance of ebullition in peatlands and the consequent hydrological responses to these gas-emission events. Copyright ?? 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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The hydrology of northern peatlands as affected by biogenic gas: Current developments and research needs