The effect of long-term water table manipulations on dissolved organic carbon dynamics in a poor fen peatland

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Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) production, consumption, and quality displayed differences after long-term (55years) hydrological alterations in a poor fen peatland in northern Michigan. The construction of an earthen levee resulted in areas of a raised and lowered water table (WT) relative to an unaltered intermediate WT site. The lowered WT site had greater peat aeration and larger seasonal vertical WT fluctuations that likely elevated peat decomposition and subsidence with subsequent increases in bulk density, vertical hydraulic gradient, decreased hydraulic conductivity (Ksat), and a greater pore water residence time relative to the unaltered site. The raised WT site displayed a decreased Ksat combined with seasonal upwelling events that contributed to a longer residence time in comparison to the unaltered site. These differences are potentially contributing to elevated DOC concentrations at the lowered and raised WT site relative to the unaltered site. Additionally, spectrophotometric indices and chemical constituent assays indicated that the lowered site DOC was more aromatic and contained elevated concentrations of phenolics compared to the intermediate site. The raised site DOC was less aromatic, less humified, and also had a greater phenolic content than the intermediate site. Furthermore, an incubation experiment showed that DOC in the raised site contained the greatest labile carbon source. Based on our results, long-term WT alterations will likely impose significant effects on DOC dynamics in these peatlands; however, WT position alone was not a good predictor of DOC concentrations, though impoundment appears to produce a more labile DOC whereas drainage increases DOC aromaticity. Key Points Peatland DOC concentrations increased in raised and lowered water table sites Quality and production of DOC were different across water table sites ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences