Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 was measured in four peatlands along plant community, hydrologic, and water chemistry gradients from bog to rich fen in a diverse peatland complex near Thompson, Manitoba, as part of the Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS). A simple model for estimating growing season net ecosystem productivity (NEP) using continuous measurements of photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), and peat temperature was constructed with weekly chamber measurements of NEE from May to October 1996. The model explained 79–83% of the variation in NEE across the four sites. Model estimation and parameter uncertainty calculations were performed using nonlinear regression analyses with a maximum likelihood objective function. The model underestimated maximum NEE and respiration during the midseason when the standard errors for each parameter were greatest. On a daily basis, uncertainty in the midday NEE simulation was higher than at night. Although the magnitude of both photosynthesis and respiration rates followed the trophic gradient bog less than poor fen less than intermediate fen less than rich fen, NEP did not follow the same pattern. NEP in the bog and rich fen was close to zero, while the poor and intermediate fens had higher NEP due to a greater imbalance between uptake and release of CO2. Although all sites had a positive growing season NEP, upper and lower 95% confidence limits showed that the bog and rich fen were either a source or sink of CO2 to the atmosphere, while the sedge-dominated poor and intermediate fens were accumulating approximately 20–100 g CO2 C m−2over the 5 month period in 1996. Peatland ecosystems may switch from a net sink to a source of carbon on short timescales with small changes in soil temperature or water table position. Since the difference between production and decomposition is small, it is important to understand and quantify the magnitude of uncertainty in these measurements in order to predict the effect of climatic change on peatland carbon exchange.


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres



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Copyright 1999 by the American Geophysical Union.