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Hydrologic Restoration Decreases Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Shrub Bog Peatlands in Southeastern US

Abstract

Peatlands play a disproportionate role in the global carbon cycle. However, many peatlands have been ditched to lower the water table and converted into agriculture, which contributes to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrologic restoration of drained peatlands could offset greenhouse gas emissions from these actions, but field examples that consider various greenhouse gases are still rare. Here, we examined emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) from soils in drained shrub bogs in North Carolina, USA, before and after hydrologic restoration. We used static chamber methods and a before-and-after, control-impact (BACI) experimental design. We found that hydrologic manipulation (akin to restoration) increased water table levels by 65%, even with the impact of two hurricanes before and one after hydrologic manipulation. Increased water table levels led to a 58% decrease in CO2 fluxes, and an increase in CH4 (251%) and N2O fluxes (85%). Water table depth and soil temperature explained 43% of variation in CO2, while water table depth explained 25% and 18% of variation in CH4 and N2O fluxes, respectively. Despite the increases in CH4 and N2O, the higher magnitude of fluxes and large decline in CO2 lead to an overall lowering of greenhouse gas emissions after hydrologic restoration. Our results suggest that raising the water table in this shrub bog peatland decreased overall greenhouse gas emissions, illustrating that hydrologic restoration of peatlands can be a valuable climate mitigation practice.

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Data Availability

The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements and Funding

This work was supported by funding from The Nature Conservancy and NSF DEB-1713502. KWK, NC, and RFM were supported by the U.S. Geological Survey Land Carbon Program and Climate R&D Program.

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Contributions

Christine Pickens, Ken W. Krauss, and Marcelo Ardón conceived and designed the study. Louise Armstrong, Ariane Peralta, Nicole Cormier, Rebecca F. Moss, Eric Soderholm, Aaron McCall, Christine Pickens and Marcelo Ardón participated in material preparation, data collection, and analyses. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Louise Armstrong and Marcelo Ardón, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marcelo Ardón.

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Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The authors have no relevant financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Armstrong, L., Peralta, A., Krauss, K.W. et al. Hydrologic Restoration Decreases Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Shrub Bog Peatlands in Southeastern US. Wetlands 42, 81 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-022-01605-y

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