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Knorr, KH; Oosterwoud, MR; Blodau, C: Experimental drought alters rates of soil respiration and methanogenesis but not carbon exchange in soil of a temperate fen, Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 40(7), 1781-1791 (2008)
The impact of intensified drought and rewetting on C cycling in peatlands is debated. We conducted drying/rewetting (DW) experiments with intact monoliths of a temperate fen over a period of 10 months. One treatment with original vegetation (DW-V) and one defoliated treatment (DW-D) were rewetted after an experimental drought of 50 days; another treatment was kept permanently wet (W-V). Soil water content was determined by the TDR technique, C fluxes from chamber measurements and gas profiles in the soils, and respiration from mass balancing CO2 and CH4 fluxes in the peat using hourly to weekly data. Zones of high root associated respiration were determined from a 13C labeling experiment. Autotrophic respiration contributed from 55 to 65% to an average ecosystem respiration (ER) of 92 (DWD), 211 (DW-V), and 267 mmolm2 d1 (W-V). Photosynthesis ranged from 0 (DW-D) to 450 mmolm2 d1 (W-V), and strongly declined for about 30 days after rewetting (DW-V), while ER remained constant during the drying and rewetting event. Drying raised air-filled porosity in the soil to 2–13%, temporarily increased respiration to estimated anaerobic and aerobic rates of up to 550 and 1000 nmol cm3 d1, and delayed methane production and emission by weeks to months. Root associated respiration was concentrated in the uppermost peat layer. In spite of clear relative changes in respiration during and after drought, the impact on carbon exchange with the atmosphere was small. We attribute this finding to the importance of respiration in the uppermost and soil layer, which remained moist and aerated, and the insensitivity of autotrophic respiration to drought. We expect a similar dynamics to occur in other temperate wetland soils in which soil respiration is concentrated near the peatland surface, such as rich minerotrophic fens.
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