The effect of drought on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) release from peatland soil and vegetation sources
European Geosciences Union (EGU) / Copernicus Publications
© Author(s) 2017. Open access. This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Drought conditions are expected to increase in frequency and severity as the climate changes, representing a threat to carbon sequestered in peat soils. Downstream water treatment works are also at risk of regulatory compliance failures and higher treatment costs due to the increase in riverine dissolved organic carbon (DOC) often observed after droughts. More frequent droughts may also shift dominant vegetation in peatlands from Sphagnum moss to more drought-tolerant species. This paper examines the impact of drought on the production and treatability of DOC from four vegetation litters (Calluna vulgaris, Juncus effusus, Molinia caerulea and Sphagnum spp.) and a peat soil. We found that mild droughts caused a 39.6% increase in DOC production from peat and that peat DOC that had been exposed to oxygen was harder to remove by conventional water treatment processes (coagulation/flocculation). Drought had no effect on the amount of DOC production from vegetation litters; however large variation was observed between typical peatland species (Sphagnum and Calluna) and drought-tolerant grassland species (Juncus and Molinia), with the latter producing more DOC per unit weight. This would therefore suggest the increase in riverine DOC often observed post-drought is due entirely to soil microbial processes and DOC solubility rather than litter layer effects. Long-term shifts in species diversity may, therefore, be the most important impact of drought on litter layer DOC flux, whereas pulses related to drought may be observed in peat soils and are likely to become more common in the future. These results provide evidence in support of catchment management which increases the resilience of peat soils to drought, such as ditch blocking to raise water tables.
This work was supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council [grant number EP/N010124/1]. The authors would also like to thank the Grantham Institute: Climate and Environment and Climate-KIC for the financial support of Jonathan Ritson. The authors would also like to thank South West Water’s Mires project for access to sites as well as Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities, Natural England and Duchy of Cornwall. Freeman acknowledges NERC Grant NE/K01093X/1.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from EGU via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 14, pp. 2891 - 2902