Radiocarbon evidence for the importance of surface vegetation on fermentation and methanogenesis in contrasting types of boreal peatlands

J. P. Chanton, P. H. Glaser, L. S. Chasar, D. J. Burdige, M. E. Hines, D. I. Siegel, L. B. Tremblay, W. T. Cooper

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We found a consistent distribution pattern for radiocarbon in dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and methane replicated across spatial and temporal scales in northern peatlands from Minnesota to Alaska. The 14C content of DOC is relatively modern throughout the peat column, to depths of 3 m. In sedge-dominated peatlands, the 14C contents of the products of respiration, CH4 and DIC, are essentially the same and are similar to that of DOC. In Sphagnum- and woody plant-dominated peatlands with few sedges, however, the respiration products are similar but intermediate between the 14C contents of the solid phase peat and the DOC. Preliminary data indicates qualitative differences in the pore water DOC, depending on the extent of sedge cover, consistent with the hypothesis that the DOC in sedge-dominated peatlands is more reactive than DOC in peatlands where Sphagnum or other vascular plants dominate. These data are supported by molecular level analysis of DOC by ultrahigh-resolution mass spectrometry that suggests more dramatic changes with depth in the composition of DOC in the sedge-dominated peatland pore waters relative to changes observed in DOC where Sphagnum dominates. The higher reactivity of DOC from sedge-dominated peatlands may be a function of either different source materials or environmental factors that are related to the abundance of sedges in peatlands.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberGB4022
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partly supported by a Grant in Aid for Fundamental Scientific Research from the Ministry of Education of Japan. Special thanks are due to Dr. T. Okada for observation of ACF samples with a high resolution transmission electron microscopy.


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