Long-term water table manipulations alter peatland gaseous carbon fluxes in Northern Michigan

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Northern peatland water table position is tightly coupled to carbon (C) cycling dynamics and is predicted to change from shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns associated with global climate change. However, it is uncertain how long-term water table alterations will alter C dynamics in northern peatlands because most studies have focused on short-term water table manipulations. The goal of our study was to quantify the effect of long-term water table changes (~80 years) on gaseous C fluxes in a peatland in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Chamber methods were utilized to measure ecosystem respiration (ER), gross primary production (GPP), net ecosystem exchange (NEE), and methane (CH4) fluxes in a peatland experiencing levee induced long-term water table drawdown and impoundment in relation to an unaltered site. Inundation raised water table levels by approximately ~10 cm and resulted in a decrease in ER and GPP, but an increase of CH4 emissions. Conversely, the drained sites, with water table levels ~15 cm lower, resulted in a significant increase in ER and GPP, but a decrease in CH4 emissions. However, NEE was not significantly different between the water table treatments. In summary, our data indicates that long-term water table drawdown and inundation was still altering peatland gaseous C fluxes, even after 80 years. In addition, many of the patterns we found were of similar magnitude to those measured in short-term studies, which indicates that short-term studies might be useful for predicting the direction and magnitude of future C changes in peatlands. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

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Wetlands Ecology and Management