Sphagnum mosses contribute to the long-term carbon sequestration of many northern peatlands. Variability in both Sphagnum and peatland CO 2 exchange is strongly influenced by water availability, but there is limited work examining the links between these relationships, particularly in a field setting. In this study, the effects of varying moss water content (WC), through precipitation exclusion (PE) and water addition (WA) treatments, on net ecosystem CO 2 exchange (NEE) and component fluxes were assessed during a single growing season at Mer Bleue bog, a temperate ombrotrophic peatland. CO 2 exchange by Sphagnum, vascular plants, and the total ecosystem were measured in situ using chambers. On average, the hummock species of Sphagnum dominant at the site maintained WCs within the optimal range for photosynthesis in all treatments and no treatment effect on CO 2 exchange was observed. However, in a few samples associated with below optimal WCs, Sphagnum photosynthesis was reduced. Water table (WT) depth and direct precipitation were both important controls on Sphagnum WC, suggesting that frequent small rain events may be important in maintaining Sphagnum WC. This study only explored one variable associated with drought conditions (i.e. water availability through intercepted precipitation). Consequently, further study is necessary to assess the relative importance of deep WT positions and high temperatures on moss WC. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that decreased Sphagnum photosynthesis has the potential to influence peatland CO 2 uptake at Mer Bleue in drought years, but only if moss WC is reduced below the optimal range.

Additional Metadata
Keywords CO 2 exchange, Moss, Peatland, Precipitation, Water content, Water table
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1002/eco.171
Journal Ecohydrology
Adkinson, A.C., & Humphreys, E. (2011). The response of carbon dioxide exchange to manipulations of Sphagnum water content in an ombrotrophic bog. Ecohydrology, 4(6), 733–743. doi:10.1002/eco.171