Controls of Spatial and Temporal Variability in CH4 Flux in a High Arctic Fen over Three Years
Monday, 15 December 2014
Arctic wetlands are an important source of CH4 to the atmosphere and store large amounts of carbon as peat. The aim of this study was to determine the main driving forces of the spatial variability in CH4 flux in a high arctic fen situated in Zackenberg, NE Greenland. The study was conducted over three years (2011-2013) and included 16-20 control plots and in 2013 also 29 “treated” plots, e.g., excluded muskoxen grazing (10), snow fence (9) and automated chamber (10). The plots were distributed over a 0.25 km2 area. From 1 July to 10 August we measured (all variables only in 2013) fluxes of CH4 and CO2 (NEE, Reco and GPP), temperature, water table and active layer depth, PAR, substrate conc. for CH4 production in pore-water (i.e. acetate, AA) and the species composition and density of sedges. We found significant treatment effects, a 1.8-times difference in CH4 flux between the years and a high spatial variability, e.g., 9- and 35-times difference between max and min plots depending on year and treatment. GPP was consistently a strong driver of the variability in CH4 flux. In 2013 several plant productivity related variables were singled out as the strongest drivers of the variability in CH4 flux, e.g., (in order of strength) NEE, GPP and AA. The driver of NEE, GPP and AA was the density of Eriophorum scheuchzeri. The drivers were the same and followed the same patterns irrespective of treatment. In conclusion, the results show a strong dependence of the spatial variability in CH4 flux on productivity and carbon input to vegetation and pore-water. The main driver of this input is the vegetation composition and density. The results indicate that future environmental changes in wet arctic ecosystems that affect the vegetation composition and productivity will have large impacts on their carbon balance and CH4 flux, irrespective of whether these changes are driven directly by climate change or by indirect effects on for instance grazing pressure.