, Volume 180, Issue 1, pp 121-127

Microbial activity and enzymic decomposition processes following peatland water table drawdown

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Microbial activity and enzymic decomposition processes were followed during a field-based experimental lowering of the water table in a Welsh peatland. Respiration was not significantly affected by the treatment. However, the enzymes sulphatase, β-glucosidase and phosphatase were stimulated by between 31 and 67% upon water table drawdown. A further enzyme, phenol oxidase, was not significantly affected. The observation of elevated enzyme activities without an associated increase in microbial respiratory activity suggests that drought conditions influence peatland mineralisation rates through a direct stimulation of existing enzymes, rather than through a generalised stimulation of microbial metabolism (with associated de-novo enzyme synthesis). Hydrochemical data suggest that the stimulation may have been caused by a reduction in the inhibitory action of iron and phenolics in the peat pore waters. Overall, the findings support the recent hypothesis that drier conditions associated with climate change could stimulate mineralisation within wetlands. ei]R Merckx