Modelling Effects of Water Table Depth Variations on Net Ecosystem CO2 Exchange of a Western Canadian Peatland

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Mohammad Mezbahuddin1, Robert F Grant1 and Lawrence B Flanagan2, (1)University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada, (2)University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
Water table depth (WTD) is one of the key drivers affecting aggradation and degradation of peatlands. Variations in WTD can alter the balance between gross primary productivity (GPP) and ecosystem respiration (Re) and so cause a peatland to change between a sink and a source of carbon. Process based mathematical modelling can provide insights on WTD-net ecosystem productivity (NEP) interactions over peatlands. We deployed a process-based ecosystem model ecosys to examine the WTD effects on variations in NEP of a fen peatland in Alberta, Canada. Our modelled results showed that a growing season (May-August) WTD drawdown of ~0.3m from 2004-2007 caused more rapid decomposition in deeper peat layers so that Re increased by ~180 g C m-2 growing season -1. However, similar increase in GPP (~ 170 g C m-2 growing season -1) under deeper WTD condition due to more rapid microbial and root growth, and hence more rapid mineralization and nutrient uptake, left no net effect of WTD drawdown on NEP. The modelled ecosystem was overall a large sink of C (~ 100 g C m-2 yr-1) over the study period of 2004-2009. However, gradually diminishing GPP by ~ 70 g C m-2 growing season -1 with progressively deeper WTD during 2008-2009 indicated that further drawdown of WTD could alter the source sink status of these peatlands. These modelled results were corroborated against hourly eddy covariance (EC) net CO2 fluxes, latent heat and sensible heat fluxes (R2~0.75, a→0, b→1); and annual estimates of EC-gap filled NEP and partitioned GPP and Re over the site from 2004-2009. Our findings indicated the needs for coupling of soil-plant-atmosphere schemes for gases, water, energy, carbon and nutrients in models to adequately simulate WTD effects on peatland C stocks.