Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Michael Philben, Geological and Environmental Sciences

Document Type


Event Date



The future net radiative forcing of peatlands will depend in large part on changes in methane emissions. However, current climate models lack a mechanistic representation of methane production. We conducted an anaerobic incubation experiment using peat from various depths in five cores collected from a West Michigan peatland in order to connect methane production to observable differences in the chemical composition of peat and peat pore water. We hypothesized that less decomposed peat may have a larger supply of fermentable sugars that can thus produce more methane than more decomposed peat. C:N, hydrolyzable amino acids, and neutral sugars were analyzed to evaluate the “quality” of the peat. Our results indicated that surface peat produces more methane and carbon dioxide than samples taken from greater depths. Surface peat had higher yields of arabinose and xylose, indicating higher availability of relatively labile hemicelluloses compared to deeper peat. This coincided with a higher amino acid yield in comparison to total nitrogen and a higher C:N, indicating less extensive decomposition in these samples. This is consistent with our hypothesis that methane production potential is correlated with peat quality. These results suggest that analysis of the chemical composition of peat can be used to assess methane production potential and predict the future radiative forming of peatlands.


Research reported in this publication was supported in part by funding provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), under award numbers 80NSSC20M0124 and NNX15 AJ20H, Michigan Space Grant Consortium.