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Biotic and abiotic factors interact to regulate Northern peatland carbon cycling

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>12/2015
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecosystems
Issue number8
Volume18
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)1395-1409
Publication statusPublished
Early online date30/09/15
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Understanding the spatio-temporal variability of controls on peatland carbon (C) cycling is essential to project the effects of future environmental change. While there is understanding of individual drivers of C cycling, the effect of multiple drivers, including interactions, remains poorly understood. Using a spatially and temporally explicit sampling framework, we examined the effects of biotic and abiotic controls on key indicators of peatland functioning: ecosystem respiration (R (eco)), photosynthesis (P (cal)), net ecosystem exchange (NEE), methane (CH4) fluxes, and pore water dissolved organic carbon concentration ([DOC]). Measurements were made over 12 months in a blanket peatland hosting a wind farm in Scotland, UK. Overall, we found that (i) season and plant functional type (PFT) explained most variation in R (eco) and P (cal), (ii) PFT and spatial location within the wind farm, which integrates several peat properties, were dominant predictors of CH4 fluxes, and (iii) season and location within the wind farm correlated with pore water [DOC]. Examination of predictors indicated that interactions, between and within biotic and abiotic factors, explained a significant amount of variation in greenhouse gas fluxes and [DOC]. These findings indicate that combinations of biotic and abiotic factors could mediate or exacerbate the effects of future environmental change on peatland C cycling. Given this, studies of C cycling need to capture the spatial and temporal variance of biotic and abiotic factors and their interactions to project the likely impacts of environmental change.