Potential carbon losses from peat profiles: effects of temperature, drought cycles and fire

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  • Abstract: Global warming and the resultant increase in evapotranspiration might lead to lowered water tables in peatlands and an increase in fire frequency. The objective of this study was to investigate some of the potential effects of these changes on peat decomposition. Dry mass losses and emissions of CO2 and CH4 from peat samples taken from three depth layers (0-10, 10-20, and 30-40 cm) of a black spruce peatland were measured in the laboratory at 8-degrees, 16-degrees, and 24-degrees-C under two moisture treatments. Effects of deep peat fire on decomposition were also simulated by burning the upper layer (0-10 cm) of peat and adding the ash to peat samples from the 10-20 cm layer. CH4 release averaged < 1% of total carbon loss in flooded samples. Release of CO2 was 4-9 times greater from the 0-10 cm layer than from the 30-40 cm layer. After 120 d, the 30-40 cm layer had lost < 1% of its original dry mass in all treatments. Higher temperatures strongly promoted decomposition of samples exposed to drying cycles but had little effect on decomposition of continuously flooded samples. Ash addition had variable effects on CO2 emissions but may have promoted CH4 production.

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    Article (Published)
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    © 1992 Ecological Society of America. This version of this article is open access and can be downloaded and shared. The original author(s) and source must be cited.
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    • Hogg, E.H., V.J. Lieffers, and R.W. Wein. 1992. Potential carbon losses from peat profiles: effects of temperature, drought cycles and fire. Ecological Applications, 2(3): 298-306. DOI: 10.2307/1941863