The effect of resource access roads on hydrology and carbon exchange in two boreal forested peatlands

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Saraswati Saraswati, Maria Strack

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Dense peatland coverage makes Canada’s boreal region a significant carbon reservoir and a key component of global greenhouse gas cycling. However, many of these peatlands have been fragmented by > 215,000 km long road network, and the fragmented peatlands may experience various changes leading to impact on carbon storage potential. To investigate the impacts of roads on hydrological variations and carbon dynamics, we performed a multi-year study (2015 Р2017) in a forested bog and a shrubby fen in northern Alberta. In general, we observed ponding conditions on the upstream and drying of the downstream areas closer to the road when culverts were not placed within ~ 15 m of the plots at bog site. Consequently, in 2016, the ground layer of the bog was a source (1.9 g CO2 m-2 d-1 ) and the fen was a sink (-19.1 g CO2 m-2 d-1 ) of CO2. In 2017, the ground layers of both the bog and fen were sinks of CO2 (-1.4 g CO2 m-2 d-1 and -10.6 g CO2 m-2 d-1 , respectively). Due to the orientation of the road relative to the local slope of the peatland, the hydrologic effects of the road were lower at the fen. Variation in carbon fluxes relative the road was also small at fen site, but there was an overall reduction in carbon sink function due to plant community disturbance, likely related to road construction. In our presentation, we will also discuss how we can minimize the road associated impacts in peatlands.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program