We measured seasonal patterns of net ecosystem exchange (NEE) of CO2 in a diverse peatland complex underlain by discontinuous permafrost in northern Manitoba, Canada, as part of the Boreal Ecosystems Atmosphere Study (BOREAS). Study sites spanned the full range of peatland trophic and moisture gradients found in boreal environments from bog (pH 3.9) to rich fen (pH 7.2). During midseason (July‐August, 1996), highest rates of NEE and respiration followed the trophic sequence of bog (5.4 to −3.9 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1) < poor fen (6.3 to −6.5 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1) < intermediate fen (10.5 to −7.8 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1) < rich fen (14.9 to −8.7 μmol CO2m−2 s−1). The sequence changed during spring (May‐June) and fall (September‐October) when ericaceous shrub (e.g., Chamaedaphne calyculata) bogs and sedge (Carex spp.) communities in poor to intermediate fens had higher maximum CO2 fixation rates than deciduous shrub‐dominated (Salix spp. and Betula spp.) rich fens. Timing of snowmelt and differential rates of peat surface thaw in microtopographic hummocks and hollows controlled the onset of carbon uptake in spring. Maximum photosynthesis and respiration were closely correlated throughout the growing season with a ratio of approximately 1/3 ecosystem respiration to maximum carbon uptake at all sites across the trophic gradient. Soil temperatures above the water table and timing of surface thaw and freeze‐up in the spring and fall were more important to net CO2 exchange than deep soil warming. This close coupling of maximum CO2 uptake and respiration to easily measurable variables, such as trophic status, peat temperature, and water table, will improve models of wetland carbon exchange. Although trophic status, aboveground net primary productivity, and surface temperatures were more important than water level in predicting respiration on a daily basis, the mean position of the water table was a good predictor (r2 = 0.63) of mean respiration rates across the range of plant community and moisture gradients. Q10 values ranged from 3.0 to 4.1 from bog to rich fen, but when normalized by above ground vascular plant biomass, the Q10 for all sites was 3.3.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Global Biogeochemical Cycles


American Geophysical Union (AGU)

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Copyright 1998 by the American Geophysical Union.


This is an article published by AGU in Global Biogeochemical Cycles in 1998, available online: