Changes in carbon and nitrogen dynamics in Sphagnum capillifolium under enhanced nitrogen deposition
Kivimäki, Sanna Katariina
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Peatland ecosystems only cover 2-3 % of the Earth‟s surface but they represent significant carbon stores, holding approximately one third of the global soil carbon (C). The major peat forming genera Sphagnum appears to be highly sensitive to increased N availability. Many studies have shown decreased productivity of Sphagnum which could lead to a decrease in the amount of C stored, especially as many studies also show an increase in the decomposition rate with higher N deposition. However, the overall effects of N on CO2 fluxes of Sphagnum remain unclear. The present study aimed to look at the effects of increased N on Sphagnum productivity, decomposition and CO2 fluxes after long-term N additions (> 5 years) using a field experiment at Whim Moss in southern Scotland where N deposition has been manipulated employing a very realistic application coupled to rainfall since 2002. The experiment also has treatments with PK addition to test the effects of removing P and/or K-limitation. Measurements of plant tissue nutrient concentrations, visual assessments of Sphagnum viability, and pore water analysis were also carried out. Nitrogen additions increased tissue N, and decreased Sphagnum shoot extension and productivity. Simultaneous P and K additions alleviated the effects of N on tissue N concentrations and growth, although this was only significant for shoot extension. Visual assessments correlated well with tissue chemistry and productivity; the decline in health was associated with high %N and reduced productivity. Interestingly, in the present study increased N decreased the mass loss and again when PK was added with N decomposition rates were more similar to the control. With respect to the carbon balance of the site and the sustainability of peatlands the results suggest that the negative effect of N on C assimilation may be partially offset by the reduced decomposition rates. The CO2 measurements showed a large loss of C as CO2 from all the Sphagnum plots which was exacerbated by adding N especially when the air temperature increased. The positive temperature response of ecosystem respiration with N additions suggests that in high N deposition areas climate change and subsequent temperature rises will increase C losses from bogs.