Graduation Date

Spring 2024

Document Type



Master of Science degree with a major in Environmental Systems, option Geology

Committee Chair Name

Laura Levy

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Jacky Baughman

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Third Committee Member Name

Michael van Hattem

Third Committee Member Affiliation

Community Member or Outside Professional


Northern California, Peatland, Paleoclimate, Humboldt, Fen, Wetland, Peat mining

Subject Categories



Increasingly, the importance of peatlands as biodiversity hotpots, year-round water storage features, and significant carbon sinks are being recognized. Despite this, they are one of the most vulnerable ecosystems globally. While some peatland conservation and restoration initiatives are being developed, a greater understanding of small peatlands is needed to make management decisions. This study aims to determine the timing of peat formation, peat volume, and carbon accumulation rates of the Conspicuous Scoop Fen, a small (2.1-acre) fen near Bridgeville, California (~840 m.a.s.l.). During the summers of 2022 and 2023, I collected 39 m of peat cores at 14 sampling locations. For each core, I determined the basal peat to clay transition depth using magnetic susceptibility to ultimately generate a basal topography model and calculate total peat volume. Then, I measured total organic carbon content and bulk density along the peat profile to calculate the total carbon mass. Finally, using radiocarbon dating, I estimated the timing of fen initiation and reconstructed carbon accumulation rates (CARs) and vertical accretion rates (VARs). The maximum calibrated age of the peatland is 4550 ± 60 cal yr BP. The average VAR is 0.25 ± 0.17 cm yr-1 and the average CAR is 76.1 ± 52.9 g C m-2 yr-1. Shifts in CARs suggest that regional climatic drivers may influence CARs and VARs on a millennial scale, but not on shorter time scales. I found the total peat volume to be 32,158 ± 43 m3 and the carbon mass stored within the fen is at minimum 947 to 1090 metric tons. This is approximately equivalent to the carbon produced by 773-889 gasoline-powered cars per year on the road or 3.2-4.5 million pounds of coal burned. This research adds to the knowledge that small peatlands in Northern California contain significant amounts of sequestered carbon, which can help support peatland conservation initiatives in the region.

Citation Style

Journal of Structural Geology

Included in

Geology Commons


Thesis/Project Location


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