Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Biogeosciences, 15, 885-903, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
12 Feb 2018
Differential response of carbon cycling to long-term nutrient input and altered hydrological conditions in a continental Canadian peatland
Sina Berger1,2,3, Leandra S. E. Praetzel1,2, Marie Goebel1,2, Christian Blodau1,2,†, and Klaus-Holger Knorr1 1University of Muenster, Institute of Landscape Ecology, Ecohydrology and Biogeochemistry Group, Heisenbergstraße 2, 48149 Muenster, Germany
2University of Guelph, School of Environmental Sciences, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada
3Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), Kreuzeckbahnstraße 19, 82467 Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
deceased, 28 July 2016
Abstract. Peatlands play an important role in global carbon cycling, but their responses to long-term anthropogenically changed hydrologic conditions and nutrient infiltration are not well known. While experimental manipulation studies, e.g., fertilization or water table manipulations, exist on the plot scale, only few studies have addressed such factors under in situ conditions. Therefore, an ecological gradient from the center to the periphery of a continental Canadian peatland bordering a eutrophic water reservoir, as reflected by increasing nutrient input, enhanced water level fluctuations, and increasing coverage of vascular plants, was used for a case study of carbon cycling along a sequence of four differently altered sites. We monitored carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) surface fluxes and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and CH4 concentrations in peat profiles from April 2014 through September 2015. Moreover, we studied bulk peat and pore-water quality and we applied δ13C–CH4 and δ13C–CO2 stable isotope abundance analyses to examine dominant CH4 production and emission pathways during the growing season of 2015. We observed differential responses of carbon cycling at the four sites, presumably driven by abundances of plant functional types and vicinity to the reservoir. A shrub-dominated site in close vicinity to the reservoir was a comparably weak sink for CO2 (in 1.5 years: −1093 ± 794, in 1 year: +135 ± 281 g CO2 m−2; a net release) as compared to two graminoid-moss-dominated sites and a moss-dominated site (in 1.5 years: −1552 to −2260 g CO2 m−2, in 1 year: −896 to −1282 g CO2 m−2). Also, the shrub-dominated site featured notably low DIC pore-water concentrations and comparably 13C-enriched CH4 (δ13C– CH4: −57.81 ± 7.03 ‰) and depleted CO2 (δ13C–CO2: −15.85 ± 3.61 ‰) in a more decomposed peat, suggesting a higher share of CH4 oxidation and differences in predominant methanogenic pathways. In comparison to all other sites, the graminoid-moss-dominated site in closer vicinity to the reservoir featured a  ∼  30 % higher CH4 emission (in 1.5 years: +61.4 ± 32, in 1 year: +39.86 ± 16.81 g CH4 m−2). Low δ13C–CH4 signatures (−62.30 ± 5.54 ‰) indicated only low mitigation of CH4 emissions by methanotrophic activity here. Pathways of methanogenesis and methanotrophy appeared to be related to the vicinity to the water reservoir: the importance of acetoclastic CH4 production apparently increased toward the reservoir, whereas the importance of CH4 oxidation increased toward the peatland center. Plant-mediated transport was the prevailing CH4 emission pathway at all sites even where graminoids were rare. Our study thus illustrates accelerated carbon cycling in a strongly altered peatland with consequences for CO2 and CH4 budgets. However, our results suggest that long-term excess nutrient input does not necessarily lead to a loss of the peatland carbon sink function.

Citation: Berger, S., Praetzel, L. S. E., Goebel, M., Blodau, C., and Knorr, K.-H.: Differential response of carbon cycling to long-term nutrient input and altered hydrological conditions in a continental Canadian peatland, Biogeosciences, 15, 885-903,, 2018.
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