Ecosystem Respiration in a Cool Temperate Bog Depends on Peat Temperature But Not Water Table


Ecosystem respiration (ER) is an important but poorly understood part of the carbon (C) budget of peatlands and is controlled primarily by the thermal and hydrologic regimes. To establish the relative importance of these two controls for a large ombrotrophic bog near Ottawa, Canada, we analyzed ER from measurements of nighttime net ecosystem exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) determined by eddy covariance technique. Measurements were made from May to October over five years, 1998 to 2002. Ecosystem respiration ranged from less than 1 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1 in spring (May) and fall (late October) to 2–4 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1 during mid-summer (July-August). As anticipated, there was a strong relationship between ER and peat temperatures (r2 = 0.62). Q10 between 5° to 15°C varied from 2.2 to 4.2 depending upon the choice of depth where temperature was measured and location within a hummock or hollow. There was only a weak relationship between ER and water-table depth (r2 = 0.11). A laboratory incubation of peat cores at different moisture contents showed that CO2 production was reduced by drying in the surface samples, but there was little decrease in production due to drying from below a depth of 30 cm. We postulate that the weak correlation between ER and water table position in this peatland is primarily a function of the bog being relatively dry, with water table varying between 30 and 75 cm below the hummock tops. The dryness gives rise to a complex ER response to water table involving i) compensations between production of CO2 in the upper and lower peat profile as the water table falls and ii) the importance of autotrophic respiration, which is relatively independent of water-table position.

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