U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

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Small Differences in Ombrotrophy Control Regional-Scale Variation in Methane Cycling among Sphagnum-Dominated Peatlands
Published: August 20, 2018
Posted: February 15, 2019

Large variation in methane emissions among bogs suggests caution in scaling results and associated regional extrapolations. 

The Science
A detailed biogeochemical and microbial study of three moss-dominated, low pH peatlands in northern Minnesota, as well as a survey of methane production potentials in 19 peatlands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, showed large difference in methane production and emissions in bog-like peatlands despite initial similarities. These experiments demonstrate that it is common to have high variation in methane cycling in seemingly similar peatlands within a single geographical region.

The Impact
Caution is urged in extrapolating results from a small number of bog and peatland sites to regional responses in methane dynamics in peatlands due to considerable variability in methane cycling.

Summary
There is limited understanding of the variability associated with methane (CH4) cycling among low pH, Sphagnum moss-dominated peatlands within a geographical region. Here, a team of researchers from the University of Oregon and Chapman University report the results from two studies exploring the controls of CH4 cycling in peatlands from the Upper Midwest (USA). Potential :CH4 production and resultant CO2:CH4 ratios varied by several orders-of-magnitude among 19 peatlands in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They also more intensively examined :CH4 dynamics in three bog-like, acidic, Sphagnum -dominated peatlands in northern Minnesota. Net :CH4 flux was lowest in the peatland with well-developed hummocks, and the isotopic composition of the :CH4 along with methanotroph gene expression indicated a strong role for :CH4 oxidation in controlling net :CH4 flux. These experiments demonstrate that it is common to have high variation in :CH4 cycling in seemingly similar peatlands within a single geographical region. Caution should be used when extrapolating data from a single site to the landscape scale, even for outwardly very similar peatlands, and it is best to place manipulative experiments in multiple peatlands to encompass this variability. The macroscale development of peatlands, and concomitantly their microtopography as expressed in the proportion of hummocks, hollows, lawns and pools, need to be considered as central controls over :CH4 emissions in methane modeling.

Contacts (BER PM)
Daniel Stover
Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov

(PI Contact)
Scott Bridgham
Institute of Ecology and Evolution
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR 97403-5289
bridgham@uoregon.edu

Jason Keller
Schmid College of Science and Technology
Chapman University
Orange, CA 92866 USA
jkeller@chapman.edu

Funding
This material is based on work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research under award numbers DE-SC0008092, DE-SC0014416, DE-SC0007144, DESC0012288 and DE-SC0012088, the Department of Energy Office of Science Graduate Fellowship Program (DE-AC05-06OR23100) and by the National Science Foundation under award number DEB-0816575.

Publications
Zalman, C., et al. “Small differences in ombrotrophy control regional-scale variation in methane cycling among Sphagnum-dominated peatlands.” Biogeochemistry 139, 155-177 (2018). [DOI:10.1007/s10533-018-0460-z]

Zalman, C., et al. SPRUCE Small Differences in Ombrotrophy Control Regional-Scale Variation in Methane Cycling among Sphagnum-Dominated Peatlands: Supporting Data. (2018). Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States).

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Cross-Cutting: Education

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER

 

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