Whole-Ecosystem Warming Increases Plant-Available Nitrogen and Phosphorus in an Ombrotrophic Bog

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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


Warming is expected to increase the net release of carbon from peatland soils, contributing to future warming. This positive feedback may be moderated by the response of peatland vegetation to rising atmospheric [CO2] or to increased soil nutrient availability. We asked whether a gradient of whole-ecosystem warming (from + 0 °C to + 9 °C) would increase plant-available nitrogen and phosphorus in an ombrotrophic bog in northern Minnesota, USA, and whether elevated [CO2] would modify the nutrient response. We tracked changes in plant-available nutrients across space and through time and in comparison with other nutrient pools, and assessed whether nutrient warming responses were captured by a point version of the land-surface model, ELM-SPRUCE. We found that warming exponentially increased plant-available ammonium and phosphate, but that nutrient dynamics were unaffected by elevated [CO2]. The warming response increased by an order of magnitude between the first and fourth year of the experimental manipulation, perhaps because of dramatic mortality of Sphagnum mosses in the surface peat of the warmest treatments. However, neither the magnitude nor the temporal dynamics of the responses were captured by ELM-SPRUCE. Relative increases in plant-available ammonium and phosphate with warming were similar, but the response varied across raised hummocks and depressed hollows and with peat depth. Plant-available nutrient dynamics were only loosely correlated with inorganic and organic porewater nutrients, likely representing different processes. Future predictions of peatland nutrient availability under climate change scenarios must account for dynamic changes in nutrient acquisition by plants and microbes, as well as microtopography and peat depth.

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2022 The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-022-00744-x

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