, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 1119–1130 | Cite as

Dynamic Vertical Profiles of Peat Porewater Chemistry in a Northern Peatland

  • Natalie A. Griffiths
  • Stephen D. Sebestyen
Original Research


We measured pH, cations, nutrients, and total organic carbon (TOC) over 3 years to examine weekly to monthly variability in porewater chemistry depth profiles (0–3.0 m) in an ombrotrophic bog in Minnesota, USA. We also compared temporal variation at one location to spatial variation in depth profiles at 16 locations across the bog. Most solutes exhibited large gradients with depth. pH increased by two units and calcium concentrations increased over 20 fold with depth, and may reflect peatland development from minerotrophic to ombrotrophic conditions. Ammonium concentrations increased almost 20 fold and TOC concentrations decreased by half with depth, and these patterns likely reflect mineralization of peat or decomposition of TOC. There was also considerable temporal variation in the porewater chemistry depth profiles. Ammonium, soluble reactive phosphorus, and potassium showed greater temporal variation in near-surface porewater, while pH, calcium, and TOC varied more at depth. This variation demonstrates that deep peat porewater chemistry is not static. Lastly, temporal variation in solute chemistry depth profiles was greater than spatial variation in several instances, especially in shallow porewaters. Characterizing both temporal and spatial variability is necessary to ensure representative sampling in peatlands, especially when calculating solute pools and fluxes and parameterizing process-based models.


Black spruce-Sphagnum ombrotrophic bog Solute chemistry Spatial and temporal variability Depth profiles Groundwater 



We thank the late Pat Mulholland for his guidance, mentoring, and friendship. Pat’s input into the early stages of this project greatly improved our experimental design and analysis. We thank K. Oleheiser, N. Aspelin, J. Larson, C. Dorrance, D. Kyllander, R. Nettles, J. Riggs, R. Peterson, B. Munson, M. Olds, M. Wiley, and L. Kastenson for technical assistance, and P. Hanson and R. Kolka for manuscript comments and for their leadership on the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change (SPRUCE) project. Comments from two anonymous reviewers greatly improved an earlier version of this manuscript. This research was part of the SPRUCE project and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research and the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, for the U.S. Department of Energy under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.

Supplementary material

13157_2016_829_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (89 kb)
Online Resource 1 (PDF 88.8 kb)
13157_2016_829_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (54 kb)
Online Resource 2 (PDF 53.8 kb)


  1. APHA (2005) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 21st edn. American Public Health Association, Washington DC.Google Scholar
  2. Bourbonniere RA (2009) Review of water chemistry research in natural and disturbed peatlands. Canadian Water Resources Journal 34:393–414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bragazza L, Gerdol R (1999) Hydrology, groundwater chemistry and peat chemistry in relation to habitat conditions in a mire on the south-eastern alps of Italy. Plant Ecology 144:243–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bragazza L, Gerdol R (2002) Are nutrient availability and acidity-alkalinity gradients related in Sphagnum-dominated peatlands? Journal of Vegetation Science 13:473–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bragazza L, Alber R, Gerdol R (1998) Seasonal chemistry of pore water in hummocks and hollows in a poor mire in the southern alps (Italy). Wetlands 18:320–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clymo RS, Bryant CL (2008) Diffusion and mass flow of dissolved carbon dioxide, methane, and dissolved organic carbon in a 7-m deep raised peat bog. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 72:2048–2066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Collins, M, Knutti, R, Arblaster, J, Dufresne, J-L, Fichefet, T, Friedlingstein, P, Gao, X, Gutowski, WJ, Johns, T, Krinner, G, Shongwe, M, Tebaldi, C, Weaver, AJ, Wehner, M (2013) Long-term climate change: projections, commitments and irreversibility. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner G-K, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Climate Change 2013: The physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp 1029–1136Google Scholar
  8. Dubrovsky NM, Burow KR, Clark GM, Gronberg JM, Hamilton PA, Hitt KJ, Mueller DK, Munn MD, Nolan BT, Puckett LJ, Rupert MG, Short TM, Spahr NE, Sprague LA, Wilber WG (2010) The quality of our Nation’s waters: nutrients in the Nation’s streams and groundwater, 1992-2004. US geological survey Circular 1350, USGS, Reston, VA
  9. Freeman C, Lock MA, Reynolds B (1993) Fluxes of CO2, CH4, and N2O from a welsh peatland following simulation of water table draw-down: potential feedback to climatic change. Biogeochemistry 19:51–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Glaser PH, Janssens JA, Siegel DI (1990) The response of vegetation to chemical and hydrological gradients in the lost river peatland, northern Minnesota. Journal of Ecology 78:1021–1048CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Glaser PH, Siegel DI, Romanowicz EA, Ping Shen Y (1997) Regional linkages between raised bogs and the climate, groundwater, and landscape of North-Western Minnesota. Journal of Ecology 85:3–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gorham E (1991) Northern peatlands: role in the carbon cycle and probable responses to climatic warming. Ecological Applications 1:182–195CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Gorham E, Janssens JA (2005) The distribution and accumulation of chemical elements in 5 peat cores from the mid-continent to the eastern coast of North America. Wetlands 25:259–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Griffiths NA, Sebestyen SD (2016a) SPRUCE S1 bog porewater, groundwater, and stream chemistry data: 2011–2013. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN. doi: 10.3334/CDIAC/spruce.018
  15. Griffiths NA, Sebestyen SD (2016b) SPRUCE porewater chemistry data for SPRUCE experimental plots: 2013-2015. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN. doi: 10.3334/CDIAC/spruce.028
  16. Hanson PJ, Riggs JS, Dorrance C, Nettles WR, Hook LA (2015) SPRUCE environmental monitoring data: 2010–2014. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, TN. doi: 10.3334/CDIAC/spruce.001
  17. Hill BH, Jicha TM, Lehto LLP, Elonen CM, Sebestyen SD, Kolka RK (2016) Comparisons of soil nitrogen mass balances for an ombrotrophic bog and a minerotrophic fen in northern Minnesota. Science of the Total Environment 550:880–892Google Scholar
  18. Hughes S, Reynolds B, Hudson JA, Freeman C (1997) Effects of summer drought on peat soil solution chemistry in an acid gully mire. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 1:661–669CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Koehler A-K, Murphy K, Kiely G, Sottocornola M (2009) Spatial variation of DOC concentration and annual loss of DOC from an Atlantic blanket bog in south western Ireland. Biogeochemistry 95:231–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Bradford JH (2011) An evolving research agenda of the Marcell Experimental Forest. In: Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Verry ES, Brooks KN (eds) Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 73–91Google Scholar
  21. Moore TR, Roulet NT, Waddington JM (1998) Uncertainty in predicting the effect of climatic change on the carbon cycling of Canadian peatlands. Climatic Change 40:229–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Nichols DS, Verry ES (2001) Stream flow and ground water recharge from small forested watersheds in north Central Minnesota. Journal of Hydrology 245:89–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pakarinen P, Tolonen K (1977) Nutrient contents of Sphagnum mosses in relation to bog water chemistry in northern Finland. Lindbergia 4:27–33Google Scholar
  24. Parsekian AD, Slater L, Ntarlagiannis D, Nolan J, Sebestyen SD, Kolka RK, Hanson PJ (2012) Uncertainty in peat volume and soil carbon estimated using ground-penetrating radar and probing. Soil Science Society of America Journal 76:1911–1918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Proctor MCF (1994) Seasonal and shorter-term changes in surface-water chemistry on four English ombrogenous bogs. Journal of Ecology 82:597–610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Proctor MCF (2006) Temporal variation in the surface-water chemistry of a blanket bog on Dartmoor, Southwest England: analysis of 5 years’ data. European Journal of Soil Science 57:167–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Roulet N, Moore T, Bubier J, Lafleur P (1992) Northern fens: methane flux and climatic change. Tellus 44B:100–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sebestyen SD, Shanley JB, Boyer EW (2009) Using high-frequency sampling to detect effects of atmospheric pollutants on stream chemistry. In: Webb RMT, Semmens DJ (eds) Proceedings of the Third Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds: Planning for an Uncertain Future: Monitoring, Integration, and Adaptation. United States Geological Survey, Washington, DC, pp 171–176Google Scholar
  29. Sebestyen SD, Dorrance C, Olson DM, Verry ES, Kolka RK, Elling AE, Kyllander R (2011) Long-term monitoring sites and trends at the Marcell Experimental Forest. In: Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Verry ES, Brooks KN (eds) Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 15–72Google Scholar
  30. Seifert-Monson LR, Hill BH, Kolka RK, Jicha TM, Lehto LL, Elonen CM (2014) Effects of sulfate deposition on pore water dissolved organic carbon, nutrients, and microbial enzyme activities in a northern peatland. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 79:91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shi X, Thornton PE, Ricciuto DM, Hanson PJ, Mao J, Sebestyen SD, Griffiths NA, Bisht G (2015) Representing northern peatland microtopography and hydrology within the community land model. Biogeosciences 12:6463–6477CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shotyk W (1988) Review of the inorganic geochemistry of peats and peatland waters. Earth-Science Reviews 25:95–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Shotyk W, Steinmann P (1994) Pore-water indicators of rainwater-dominated versus groundwater-dominated peat bog profiles (Jura Mountains, Switzerland). Chemical Geology 116:137–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Siegel DI, Reeve AS, Glaser PH, Romanowicz EA (1994) Climate-driven flushing of pore water in peatlands. Nature 374:531–533CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Strack M, Waddington JM, Bourbonniere RA, Buckton EL, Shaw K, Whittington P, Price JS (2008) Effect of water table drawdown on peatland dissolved organic carbon export and dynamics. Hydrological Processes 22:3373–3385Google Scholar
  36. Tahvanainen T, Sallantaus T, Heikkilä R (2003) Seasonal variation of water chemical gradients in three boreal fens. Annales Botanici Fennici 40:345–355Google Scholar
  37. Tfaily MM, Cooper WT, Kostka JE, Chanton PR, Schadt CW, Hanson PJ, Iversen CM, Chanton JP (2014) Organic matter transformation in the peat column at Marcell Experimental Forest: humification and vertical stratification. Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences 119:661–675Google Scholar
  38. Ulanowski TA, Branfierun BA (2013) Small-scale variability in peatland pore-water biogeochemistry, Hudson Bay lowland, Canada. Science of the Total Environment 454–455:211–218Google Scholar
  39. Urban NR, Eisenreich SJ (1988) Nitrogen cycling in a forested Minnesota bog. Canadian Journal of Botany 66:435–449CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Urban NR, Verry ES, Eisenreich SJ, Grigal DF, Sebestyen SD (2011) Nutrient cycling in upland/peatland watersheds. In: Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Verry ES, Brooks KN (eds) Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 213–241Google Scholar
  41. Verry ES (1975) Streamflow chemistry and nutrient yields from upland-peatland watersheds in Minnesota. Ecology 56:1149–1157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Verry ES, Janssens J (2011) Geology, vegetation, and hydrology of the S2 bog at the MEF: 12,000 years in northern Minnesota. In: Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Verry ES, Brooks KN (eds) Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 93–134Google Scholar
  43. Verry ES, Timmons DR (1982) Waterborne nutrient flow through an upland-peatland watershed in Minnesota. Ecology 63:1456–1467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Verry ES, Boelter DH, Päivänen J, Nichols DS, Malterer TJ, Gafni A (2011) Physical properties of organic soils. In: Kolka RK, Sebestyen SD, Verry ES, Brooks KN (eds) Peatland biogeochemistry and watershed hydrology at the Marcell Experimental Forest CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp 135–176Google Scholar
  45. Vitt DH, Bayley SE, Jin T (1995) Seasonal variation in water chemistry over a bog-rich fen gradient in continental western Canada. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52:587–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Waughman GJ (1980) Chemical aspects of the ecology of some south German peatlands. Journal of Ecology 68:1025–1046CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Whitfield CJ, Aherne J, Gibson JJ, Seabert TA, Watmough SA (2010) The controls on boreal peatland surface water chemistry in northern Alberta, Canada. Hydrological Processes 24:2143–2155Google Scholar
  48. Woodin S, Press MC, Lee JA (1985) Nitrate reductase activity in Sphagnum fuscum in relation to wet deposition of nitrate from the atmosphere. New Phytologist 99:381–388Google Scholar
  49. Yu Z, Loisel J, Brosseau DP, Beilman DW, Hunt SJ (2010) Global peatland dynamics since the last glacial maximum. Geophysical Research Letters 37:L13402Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Society of Wetland Scientists 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Climate Change Science Institute and Environmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Northern Research Station, USDA Forest ServiceGrand RapidsUSA

Personalised recommendations