Abundant production of organic matter that decomposes slowly under anaerobic conditions can result in substantial accumulation of soil organic matter in wetlands. Tedious means for estimating production and decomposition of plant material, especially roots, hampers our understanding of organic matter dynamics in such systems. In this paper, I describe a study that amended typical estimates for both production and decomposition of organic matter by measuring net flux of carbon dioxide (CO2) over the peat surface within a conifer swamp, a sedge-dominated marsh, and a bog in the Appalachian Mountain region of West Virginia and western Maryland, USA. The sites are relatively productive, with net primary production (NPP) of 30 to 82.5 mol C m-2 yr-1, but peat deposits are shallow with an average depth of about 1 m. In summer, all three sites showed net CO2 flux from the atmosphere to the peat during the daytime (-20.0 to -30.5 mmol m-2 d-1), supported by net photosynthesis, which was less than net CO2 flux from the peat into the atmosphere at nighttime (39.2 to 84.5 mmol m-2 d-1), supported by ecosystem respiration. The imbalance between these estimates suggests a net loss of carbon (C) from these ecosystems. The positive net CO2 flux seems to be so high because organic matter decomposition occurs throughout the peat deposit — and as a result concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in peat pore waters reached 4,000 µmol L-1 by late November, and concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in peat pore waters reached 12,000 µmol L-1. Comparing different approaches revealed several features of organic matter dynamics: (i) peat accretion in the top 30 cm of the peat deposit results in a C accumulation rate of about 15 mmol m-2 d-1; however, (ii) the entire peat deposit has a negative C balance losing about 20 mmol m-2 d-1.
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- Carbon Dynamics in Appalachian Peatlands of West Virginia and Western Maryland
J. B. Yavitt
- Springer Netherlands