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Ecology. 2007 Feb;88(2):443-53.

Drainage affects tree growth and C and N dynamics in a minerotrophic peatland.

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Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, Korea.


The lowering of the water table resulting from peatland drainage may dramatically alter C and N cycling in peatland ecosystems, which contain one-third of the total terrestrial C. In this study, tree annual ring width and C (delta(13)C) and N (delta(15)N) isotope ratios in soil and plant tissues (tree foliage, growth rings, and understory foliage) in a black spruce-tamarack (Picea mariana-Larix laricina) mixed-wood forest were examined to study the effects of drainage on tree growth and C and N dynamics in a minerotrophic peatland in west-central Alberta, Canada. Drainage increased the delta(15)N of soil NH4+ from a range of +0.6% per hundred to +2.9% per hundred to a range of +4.6% per hundred to +7.0% per hundred most likely through increased nitrification following enhanced mineralization. Plant uptake of 15N-enriched NH4+ in the drained treatment resulted in higher plant delta15N (+0.8% per hundred to +1.8% per hundred in the drained plots and -3.9% per hundred to -5.4% per hundred in the undrained plots), and deposition of litterfall N enriched with 15N increased the delta15N of total soil N in the surface layer in the drained (+2.9% per hundred) as compared with that in the undrained plots (+0.6% per hundred). The effect of drainage on foliar delta(13)C was species-specific, i.e., only tamarack showed a considerably less negative foliar delta(13)C in the drained (-28.1% per hundred) than in the undrained plots (-29.1% per hundred), indicating improved water use efficiency (WUE) by drainage. Tree ring area increments were significantly increased following drainage, and delta(13)C and delta(15)N in tree growth rings of both species showed responses to drainage retrospectively. Tree-ring delta(13)C data suggested that drainage improved WUE of both species, with a greater and more prolonged response in tamarack than in black spruce. Our results indicate that drainage caused the studied minerotrophic peatland to become a more open ecosystem in terms of C and N cycling and loss. The effects of forested peatland drainage or drying on C and N balances deserve further research in order to better understand their roles in future global change.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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