Developing and Evaluating Rapid Field Methods to Estimate Peat Carbon

Document Type


Publication Date



College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Many international protocols (e.g., REDD+) are developing inventories of ecosystem carbon stocks and fluxes at country and regional scales, which can include peatlands. As the only nationally implemented field inventory and remeasurement of forest soils in the US, the USDA Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) samples the top 20 cm of organic soils, but there is a large unsampled fraction of soil carbon stored in America’s peatland forests. Improved methods could allow the FIA program to more comprehensively estimate soil carbon stocks and stock change in forested peatlands. We evaluated six rapid peat sampling methods in northern peatlands: 1) general probing of peat thickness, 2) general probing of peat thickness by general vegetation type, 3) partial profile coring #1, 0–20 cm, 4) partial profile coring #2, 25–75 cm, 5) partial profile coring #3, 50–100 cm, 6) intermittent profile coring and compared them to 7) measurements derived from whole profile sampling. We also tested our methods against an independent database of 85 peat cores collected from Manitoba, Canada. Overall, we found that the 0–20 cm partial profile core method was the least accurate method and should not be used (64–67 % accurate). The remaining rapid peat sampling methods all provided accuracies > 85 % compared to whole profile sampling. In conclusion, we found that there are several good options for rapidly sampling peat C stocks that if incorporated, could greatly increase our estimates of carbon stored in peat.

Publisher's Statement

© US Government 2014.

Publication Title