Large increases in carbon burial in northern lakes during the Anthropocene

Northern forests are important ecosystems for carbon (C) cycling and lakes within them process and bury large amounts of organic-C. Current burial estimates are poorly constrained and may discount other shifts in organic-C burial driven by global change. Here we analyse a suite of northern lakes to determine trends in organic-C burial throughout the Anthropocene. We found burial rates increased significantly over the last century and are up to five times greater than previous estimates. Despite a correlation with temperature, warming alone did not explain the increase in burial, suggesting the importance of other drivers including atmospherically deposited reactive nitrogen. Upscaling mean lake burial rates for each time period to global northern forests yields up to 4.5 Pg C accumulated in the last 100 years—20% of the total burial over the Holocene. Our results indicate that lakes will become increasingly important for C burial under future global change scenarios.