Nitrogen Retention by Sphagnum fuscum in Laboratory Mesocosms: Responses to Experimentally Added NH4+-N and NO3-N

Abstract

To evaluate the effects of increasing atmospheric N deposition on net C and N accumulation in Sphagnum-dominated bogs, we conducted a laboratory mesocosm experiment. Following 45 days of watering with N-free rainwater, mesocosms were exposed to simulated atmospheric N deposition values of 0, 4.14, 8.18, and 12.42 mg N m−2 da−1 over a 108 day period. We quantified N retention from leachate N concentrations and from changes in N contents of the Sphagnum/peat mesocosms. As N loading of simulated atmospheric N deposition increased, so did the net retention of simulated atmospherically deposited N. Our hypothesis of a decrease in N retention efficiency with increasing N loading was not observed. Further, for each N loading treatment, rates of retention of simulated atmospherically deposited N remained constant over time. We did not observe a threshold N deposition below which N would be retained in mesocosms and above which N passed through the mesocosms. Substantially more N was retained in mesocosms that was added in simulated atmospheric N deposition, suggesting an unaccounted for N source, most likely biological N2 fixation. In locations where N2 fixation represents a much greater source of new N to Sphagnum-dominated bogs, as in northern Alberta, Canada, increasing atmospheric N deposition may have a minimal effect on overall net N accumulation in peat.

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Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Kimberli Scott, Cara Albright, Jim Quinn, and Andrew Rudner for assisting in all aspects of this laboratory study. Funding for the project was provided by a grant awarded to Drs. R. Kelman Wieder, Melanie Vile, and Dale Vitt from the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (grant no. 224940).

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Correspondence to Jeremy A. Hartsock.

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Hartsock, J.A., Wieder, R.K. & Vile, M.A. Nitrogen Retention by Sphagnum fuscum in Laboratory Mesocosms: Responses to Experimentally Added NH4+-N and NO3-N. Wetlands 39, 79–85 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-018-1066-x

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Keywords

  • Peatlands
  • Sphagnum
  • Nitrogen
  • Deposition
  • Ammonium
  • Nitrate