Microtopography Alters Hydrology, Phenol Oxidase Activity and Nutrient Availability in Organic Soils of a Coastal Freshwater Forested Wetland

Abstract

Hummock-hollow microtopography is a unique feature of wetland ecosystems, but our understanding of its effects on soil carbon and nutrient cycling is limited. We investigated effects of microtopography on hydrology, phenol oxidase activity (POX) and nutrient availability in a freshwater forested wetland of coastal North Carolina. Water table depth (WTD) was measured from September 2012 to August 2013. Ion exchange probes were used to measure nutrient concentrations prior to soil sample collection in August 2013. WTD fluctuated seasonally with maximum and minimum WTD resulting in 92% (September 2012) to 8% (June 2013) of the site in flooded and non-flooded conditions, respectively. Hummocks had greater POX activity (12 ± 2.8 μmol g−1 h−1) compared to hollows (4 ± 0.7 μmol g−1 h−1) and greater concentrations of potassium and sulfur, but lower concentrations of calcium, iron, zinc, boron, and lead. POX was negatively correlated with soil water content. Higher enzyme activity in hummocks likely drives greater rates of carbon and nutrient cycling compared to hollows, consistent with observations that hummocks are hotspots for CO2 fluxes. Microtopography altered site-level hydrologic conditions, phenol oxidase activity and nutrient availability with important implications for understanding carbon and nutrient cycling in forested wetlands and response to changes in hydrology.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Dr. Yu Zhang from Duke University for his help with filling water table data gaps. We also thank the insightful comments of two anonymous reviewers. This work was supported by an interagency Carbon Cycle Science award (USDA NIFA 2014-67003-22068) and Ameriflux Core Site Network Management award (LBNL 2014-0500/7090112). Additional support was provided by the U.S. Forest Service (13-JV-11330110-081) and the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessments program (NOAA 13-2322). Significant in-kind operational support was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

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Correspondence to Kevan J. Minick.

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Minick, K.J., Kelley, A.M., Miao, G. et al. Microtopography Alters Hydrology, Phenol Oxidase Activity and Nutrient Availability in Organic Soils of a Coastal Freshwater Forested Wetland. Wetlands 39, 263–273 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-018-1107-5

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Keywords

  • Hummock
  • Hollow
  • Carbon
  • Microbial activity
  • Extracellular enzyme activity
  • Soil chemistry