Effects of submerged drains on water level and GHG emissions in two cultivated peatlands

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Sebastian Heller, Bärbel Tiemeyer, Ullrich Dettmann, Peter Gatersleben, Sebastian Oehmke , Melanie Bräuer

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The vast majority of peatland in the North German Plain is cultivated as grassland. The created open grassland landscape may provide a valuable nesting habitat for meadow birds, but many peatlands are still exploited as highly productive meadows. In any case, ongoing peat decomposition causes CO2 emissions and land subsidence. Thus, new approaches in water management are required to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Here we present the results of our four-year study with submerged drains and ditch blocking at intensively cultivated fen and bog peat sites in northwest Germany. During the first year, the water management system was optimized, but afterwards, mean water levels at the fields with submerged drains were 0.20 (fen site) and 0.65 m (bog site) higher than at the drained control field. Ditch blocking raised the water levels by 0.1 and 0.55 m only. Effects at the bog site were stronger due to lower water levels at the control site and less decomposed peat. During the first three years, fields with active water management at the fen site emitted 16-60 t CO2-eq. ha-1 a-1 and the drained control 27-49 t CO2-eq. ha-1 a-1. At the bog site, fields with active water management emitted 20-63 t CO2-eq. ha-1 a-1 and the drained control 35-65 t CO2- eq. ha-1 a-1. These results were especially surprising in the light of the significantly raised water level. Results from the fourth year (2020) will be presented as well, to clarify the effects of water management on GHG emissions.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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