The process of the transformation of fresh organic matter (OM) into more stable and recalcitrant humic substances is still not completely clear. Understanding how OM humification evolves in northern bog environments is extremely important, especially considering that they represent one of the largest terrestrial carbon pools. Structural changes of OM occurring during the humification process have been generally evaluated by indirect measurements of the degree of humification. Several approaches have been used, often providing contrasting results probably because humification is a complex process that evolves differently according to varying pedoclimatic conditions. In the present work, the authors followed the evolution of peat OM along a 165 cm bog profile (covering the mid- to late Holocene) correlating results obtained from both organic petrological and chemical investigation. Data clearly underline a significant agreement between the two perspectives, both showing either a quite immature peat material or the presence of three distinct zones along the profile. In detail, both spectroscopic (i.e., FT-IR and three dimensional fluorescence spectra, humification indexes), and Rock–Eval pyrolysis results (low residual organic carbon content and high hydrogen and oxygen index values) showed the occurrence of a central zone (from 20–30 cm to 120 cm depth) often characterized by high heterogeneity and a low degree of humification when compared to the upper ∼20 and bottom 40 cm sections.
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