New ESPL virtual special edition: Geomorphology and terrestrial carbon cycling

A growing number of geomorphologists are engaging in carbon cycle research, specifically where geomorphology is driving instability through changes in process rates. This collection of papers focuses on the output of the British Society for Geomorphology Working Group on Carbon and Geomorphology including many of the papers presented at a session organised by the Working Group at the EGU general assembly, together with some more recent papers.

Peat is a carbon rich substrate so it is unsurprising that several papers in this special edition focus on eroding peatlands. Clay et al discuss the importance of vegetated gully floors as a control on CO2 exchange and carbon cycling while Worral et al highlight the carbon sequestration benefits of peatland re-vegetation following wildfire. Pawson et al demonstrate the importance of eroding headwater sites as sources of particulate organic carbon to the fluvial system, and Holden et al focus on the implications of actively changing pipe morphology on carbon dynamics.

Agricultural soils are another area of interest, emphasising the interdisciplinarity of carbon studies between geomorphology and soil science. The scale of the work varies. Dlugoß et al model soil carbon fluxes in a small agricultural catchment showing C losses are very sensitive to magnitude and frequency of erosion events. By contrast, Doetterl et al discuss the global significance of soil-erosion induced carbon exchange. Two papers concentrate on CO2 emissions in agricultural systems. Novara et al consider the impact of soil compaction while Van Hemelryck et al look at the effect of erosion and deposition on soil organic carbon mineralization.

Scaling up, CO2 is also the focus of a further two papers. Yue et al consider the role of sediment movement in major river basins in making them act as sources or sinks of CO2 while Dymond has determined that soil erosion and subsequent deposition in New Zealand acts as a considerable net sink of CO2. The New Zealand erosion theme continues with Hilton et al who claim that high rates of erosion and ecosystem recovery lead to substantial carbon sequestration in landslide deposits. The Hilton et al paper was also included in the ESPL disturbance special issue, again highlighting the interdisciplinary nature of geomorph carbon research.

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