Assessing the impact of peat erosion on growing season CO2 fluxes by comparing erosional peat pans and surrounding vegetated haggs (article)
Gatis, N; Benaud, P; Ashe, J; et al.Luscombe, D; Grand-Clement, E; Hartley, I; Anderson, K; Brazier, R
Date: 23 February 2019
Mires and Peat
International Mire Conservation Group, International Peat Society
Peatlands are recognised as an important but vulnerable ecological resource. Understanding the effects of existing damage, in this case erosion, enables more informed land management decisions to be made. Over the growing seasons of 2013 and 2014 photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration were measured using closed chamber techniques ...
Peatlands are recognised as an important but vulnerable ecological resource. Understanding the effects of existing damage, in this case erosion, enables more informed land management decisions to be made. Over the growing seasons of 2013 and 2014 photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration were measured using closed chamber techniques within vegetated haggs and erosional peat pans in Dartmoor National Park, southwest England. Below-ground total and heterotrophic respiration were measured and autotrophic respiration estimated from the vegetated haggs. The mean water table was significantly higher in the peat pans than in the vegetated haggs; because of this, and the switching from submerged to dry peat, there were differences in vegetation composition, photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration. In the peat pans photosynthetic CO2 uptake and ecosystem respiration were greater than in the vegetated haggs and strongly dependent on the depth to water table (r2>0.78, p<0.001). Whilst in the vegetated haggs, photosynthesis and ecosystem respiration had the strongest relationships with normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) (r2=0.82, p<0.001) and soil temperature at 15 cm depth (r2=0.77, p=0.001). Autotrophic and total below-ground respiration in the vegetated haggs varied with soil temperature; heterotrophic respiration increased as water tables fell. An empirically derived net ecosystem model estimated that over the two growing seasons both the vegetated haggs (29 and 20 gC m 2; 95 % confidence intervals of -570 to 762 and -873 to 1105 gC m-2) and the peat pans (7 and 8 gC m 2; 95 % confidence intervals of -147 to 465 and -136 to 436 gC m 2) were most likely net CO2 sources. This study suggests that not only the visibly degraded bare peat pans but also the surrounding vegetated haggs are losing carbon to the atmosphere, particularly during warmer and drier conditions, highlighting a need for ecohydrological restoration.
College of Life and Environmental Sciences
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