Nutrient Addition Leads to a Weaker CO2 Sink and Higher CH4 Emissions through Vegetation-Microclimate Feedbacks at Mer Bleue Bog, Canada
Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition has led to nutrient enrichment in wetlands globally, affecting plant community composition, carbon (C) cycling, and microbial dynamics. Nutrient-limited boreal bogs are long-term sinks of carbon dioxide (CO2), but sources of methane (CH4), an important greenhouse gas. We fertilized Mer Bleue Bog, a Sphagnum moss and evergreen shrub-dominated ombrotrophic bog near Ottawa, Ontario, for 10-15 years with N as NO3 and NH4 at 5, 10 and 20 times ambient N deposition (0.6-0.8 g N m-2 y-1), with and without phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Treatments were applied to triplicate plots (3 x 3 m) from May – August 2000-2015 and control plots received distilled water. We measured net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE), ecosystem photosynthesis and respiration, and CH4 flux with climate-controlled chambers; leaf-level CO2 exchange and biochemistry; substrate-induced respiration, CH4 production and consumption potentials with laboratory incubations; plant species composition and abundance; and microclimate (peat temperature, moisture, light interception). After 15 years, we have found that NEE has decreased, and CH4 emissions have increased, in the highest nutrient treatments owing to changes in vegetation, microtopography, and peat characteristics. Vegetation changes include a loss of Sphagnum moss and introduction of new deciduous species. Simulated atmospheric N deposition has not benefitted the photosynthetic apparatus of the dominant evergreen shrubs, but resulted in higher foliar respiration, contributing to a weaker ecosystem CO2 sink. Loss of moss has led to wetter near-surface substrate, higher rates of decomposition and CH4 emission, and a shift in microbial communities. Thus, elevated atmospheric deposition of nutrients may endanger C storage in peatlands through a complex suite of feedbacks and interactions among vegetation, microclimate, and microbial communities.