Reconstructing carbon function in boreal peatlands

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M. Graham Clark , Kelly Biagi , Elyn Humphries , Sean Carey

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Oil sands mining in Canada has disrupted large regions of boreal plains peatlands which contain some of the most carbon dense soils in the world. Here we present eight years of carbon dynamics from one of two large-scale watersheds (58 ha) constructed with the purpose of restoring boreal peatlands to the landscape. Utilizing salvaged peat from recently disturbed peatlands, and a design that maintains near-surface water tables, resulted in a limited loss of the carbon pool and the promotion of native wetland species habitat. The development of wetland species over the first three years also promoted rapid carbon uptake from the atmosphere while the saturated and anoxic soils limited oxidation of the organic matter. However, recent years have seen a large reduction in the amount of carbon sequestered. Fluorescence analysis of the dissolved organic matter suggests that the fraction of highly humified organic matter is increasing so the reductions in net primary production may be a result of changes to the vegetation community and not in the biogeochemical conditions that limit mineralization of the carbon pool in the peat substrate.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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