EGU General Assembly 2007
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  Information - SSS4 Organic soils, processes, mechanisms and utilization (co-listed in BG)

Event Information
The aim of this session is to discuss the processes, mechanisms and utilization of organic soils: peatlands (fens and raised bogs), mires, and gyttja as well as mucks. Peat formation is strongly influenced by climatic conditions and topography. Carbon stored in peatlands represents one quarter of the world soils carbon pool, and up to 70% of carbon stored in biotic systems. Thus peatlands potentially play a major part in climate control. Despite global concern about climate change, the degradation of peatlands is not yet recognized as part of the problem.
All over the world, peatlands are degrading. Long-term intensive cultivation and agricultural use of peatlands leads to the degradation and mineralization of peat organic matter and initiates the moorshing process. These practices result in subsidence and soil compaction as well as in peat losses through biochemical processes. These processes cause changes in peat structure and nutrient dynamics. The rate of this process depends on the following factors: type of peat, degree of peat decomposition, density and thickness of the peat layer, drainage depth and drainage duration as well as climate change. Therefore, the continued degradation of peatlands will accelerate the process of climate change. Long-term intensive land use of former fen areas resulted in changes in biochemical and physical properties as well as in chemical composition and molecular structure of the humic substances. The main cause of this is the lowering of the difference between the surface layer and the groundwater level to permit intensive utilization. The development of peat soils after drainage involves a complex of phenomena: the properties of reclaimed soils and crop yields, the degree of drainage and local peculiarities of climate and hydrogeology.

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