Respiration Dynamics in Post-Extracted Peatlands

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Tracy Rankin, Nigel Roulet , Maria Strack

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Natural peatlands are important long-term sinks of carbon. However, the extraction of peat promotes an increase in organic matter decomposition and a decrease in soil moisture, leading to the mortality of many plant species adapted to wetter areas that would normally uptake a large amount of carbon. Extraction may also foster the establishment of sedge species (e.g. Eriophorum), whose expansive root structures allow them to tolerate larger temperature and moisture ranges than the typical plant species found in a natural peatland. A recent study that explored the carbon dynamics following extraction in an unrestored peatland, found the site to be an overall source of carbon; mainly from the vast cover of bare peat, but also from a small proportion (5%) covered by Eriophorum. Thus, we supplemented the results of that study with manual gas chamber measurements at a natural ombrotrophic bog in Eastern Ontario, which show that autotrophic respiration of Eriophorum contributes around 60% of the total ecosystem respiration. This suggests that should Eriophorum continue to spread across an extracted peatland, carbon emissions may be further exacerbated. The proposed goal of this project is to explore respiration and its sources at a newly restored site, that will most likely have a greater vascular plant cover and higher decomposition rates as compared to that of a natural peatland. Since restoration efforts aim to both restore the carbon sink functioning and to protect the residual peat from decomposition, this study will help managers assess the importance of peatland restoration.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program