Potential impacts of climate change on sphagnum bogs of the southern appalachian mountains

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Sphagnum bogs, in the southern Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America are rare and diverse ecosystems; the unique climate range they occupy allows for a mixture of northern and southern species to thrive, creating isolated biodiversity hotspots. Research on northern bogs in Europe and North America has found that climate change and atmospheric nitrogen deposition can shift species composition of bog communities and release carbon; however, research on southern bogs has not begun to answer questions about their fate. We reviewed research conducted in northern bogs and applied this information to southern Appalachian bogs to explore the potential impacts that climate change may have on southern Sphagnum bogs. The projected increase in evapotranspiration coupled with nitrogen deposition may lead to the drying up of southern bogs causing: (1) increased decomposition rates, which can lead to the system becoming a carbon source rather than a sink; and (2) local extinction of many bog species, allowing alternative ecosystems to replace the bogs. Because of these threats, we suggest a call to action for scientists and managers to begin investigating the specific impacts that climate change will have on bogs in the southeastern United States so we may better protect and conserve these unique and diverse habitats.

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Natural Areas Journal

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