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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Landscape constraints on mire lateral expansion

Ehnvall, Betty; Ratcliffe, Joshua L.; Bohlin, Elisabet; Nilsson, Mats B.; Oquist, Mats G.; Sponseller, Ryan A.; Grabs, Thomas


Little is known about the long-term expansion of mire ecosystems, despite their importance in the global carbon and hydrogeochemical cycles. It has been firmly established that mires do not expand linearly over time. Despite this, mires are often assumed to have expanded at a constant rate after initiation simply for lack of a better understanding. There has not yet been a serious attempt to determine the rate and drivers of mire expansion at the regional, or larger spatial scales. Here we make use of a natural chronosequence, spanning the Holocene, which is provided by the retreating coastline of Northern Sweden. By studying an isostatic rebound area we can infer mire expansion dynamics by looking at the portion of the landscape where mires become progressively scarce as the land becomes younger. Our results confirms that mires expanded non-linearly across the landscape and that their expansion is related to the availability of suitably wet areas, which, in our case, depends primarily on the hydro-edaphic properties of the landscape. Importantly, we found that mires occupied the wettest locations in the landscape within only one to two thousand years, while it took mires three to four thousand years to expand into slightly drier areas. Our results imply that the lateral expansion of mires, and thus peat accumulation is a non-linear process, occurring at different rates depending, above all else, on the wetness of the landscape.(c) 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


Holocene; Landscape ecology; Boreal zone; Chronosequence; Landscape wetness; Mire lateral expansion; Non-linear; Mire available areas; Peat accumulation

Published in

Quaternary Science Reviews
2023, Volume: 302, article number: 107961