Estimating changes in blanket bog CO2 flux driven by plant functional type during extreme drought using UAVs

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Henk Pieter Sterk, Neil R. Cowie, Jason McIlvenny, Ben Clutterbuck, Roxane Andersen

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Recent climate predictions for the United Kingdom expect a nation-wide shift towards drier and warmer summers. Such shifts in weather patterns have been identified to cause challenges for peatland functioning globally. Blanket bogs are a globally rare peatland types particularly abundant in Scotland, where they hold up to ¼ of the UK’s soil carbon. If extreme drier and warmer summers occur more frequently, leading to a decrease in water availability and an increase in annual temperatures, it could compromise blanket bog’s carbon-sink function. In this study, Net Ecosystem Exchange (NEE), Respiration (Reco) and Gross Primary Productivity (GPP) of plant functional types (PFTs) (Sphagnum, graminoids, ericoids) and dominant ground cover types (pools and bare peat) were compared across margins and centers of an upland and lowland blanket bog over a summer drought in 2018 and over the subsequent year. High frequency gas-chamber sampling before, during and after growing seasons provided an overview of flux dynamics across a range of environmental conditions. Mixed-effects models were used to describe CO2 flux behavior and to identify the effect of macro/meso/micro topography on fluxes during extreme drought conditions, suggesting contrasting responses across dominant PFTs. By determining environmental variable driving those responses and classifying blanket bog composition using UAV-derived imagery and Land-Surface Parameters, we are able to predict and upscale the effect of droughts to landscape scale, and begin to understand how potential shifts in vegetation dominance – across ‘near-natural’ and restored sites – could influence carbon sequestration and emission rates in the hyperoceanic setting of blanket bogs.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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