Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Forest Science (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Rodney A Chimner


Northern peatlands are large reservoirs of soil organic carbon (C). Historically peatlands have served as a sink for C since decomposition is slowed primarily because of a raised water table (WT) that creates anoxic conditions. Climate models are predicting dramatic changes in temperature and precipitation patterns for the northern hemisphere that contain more than 90% of the world’s peatlands. It is uncertain whether climate change will shift northern peatlands from C sequestering systems to a major global C source within the next century because of alterations to peatland hydrology. This research investigated the effects of 80 years of hydrological manipulations on peatland C cycling in a poor fen peatland in northern Michigan. The construction of an earthen levee within the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the 1930’s resulted in areas of raised and lowered WT position relative to an intermediate WT site that was unaltered by the levee. We established sites across the gradient of long-term WT manipulations to examine how decadal changes in WT position alter peatland C cycling. We quantified vegetation dynamics, peat substrate quality, and pore water chemistry in relation to trace gas C cycling in these manipulated areas as well as the intermediate site. Vegetation in both the raised and lowered WT treatments has different community structure, biomass, and productivity dynamics compared to the intermediate site. Peat substrate quality exhibited differences in chemical composition and lability across the WT treatments. Pore water dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations increased with impoundment and WT drawdown. The raised WT treatment DOC has a low aromaticity and is a highly labile C source, whereas WT drawdown has increased DOC aromaticity. This study has demonstrated a subtle change of the long-term WT position in a northern peatland will induce a significant influence on ecosystem C cycling with implications for the fate of peatland C stocks.