Methane emissions and dissolved organic carbon concentration of a constructed fen over the first seven years of ecosystem development

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Maria Strack , Mariah Smith, Sarah Irvine, Dryden Miller , Emily Prystupa, Felix Nwaishi, Richard Petrone , Scott Davidson

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Wetlands comprise a large portion of the pre-disturbance landscape in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region (AOSR) and have become a focus of reclamation in recent years. An important aspect of wetland reclamation is understanding the biogeochemical functioning and impact on carbon exchange, including methane (CH4) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). Here we report on the CH4 emissions and DOC concentration and chemistry over the first seven years of ecosystem development. Methane emissions were measured using manual static chambers between 2013 and 2019, alongside environmental variables such as water table depth, soil temperature and vegetation cover. DOC concentration and specific ultraviolet absorbance (SUVA) were measured monthly at 50 cm depth in a series of piezometers in three transects across the fen. Methane emissions remained low throughout the majority of the measurement period; however, in later years, a small increase became apparent. Increasing salinity levels and high levels of sulphate are likely the cause of the low CH4 emissions found, despite a consistently high-water table and the dominance of vegetation with aerenchymous tissue such as Carex aquatilis and Typha latifolia in later years. DOC concentration increased consistently over time while SUVA decreased. This indicates a decline in the aromaticity of DOC, suggesting increasing plant contribution. Meanwhile, DOC concentration in the fen was also positively corrected to sodium concentration. This assessment of the drivers on CH4 emissions and DOC concentration during early development at this constructed fen indicate that local chemical conditions are important drivers of carbon biogeochemistry in an oil sands reclamation context.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program