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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The datasets generated during and analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Batzer DP, Sharitz RR (2014) Ecology of Freshwater and Estuarine Wetlands, 2nd Editio. University of California Press, Oakland
Bridgham SD, Pastor J, Dewey B et al (2008) Rapid carbon response of peatlands to climate change. Ecology 89:3041–3048
Evans CD, Peacock M, Baird AJ et al (2021) Overriding water table control on managed peatland greenhouse gas emissions. Nature 593:548–552. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03523-1
Fargione JE, Bassett S, Boucher T et al (2018) Natural climate solutions for the United States. Science Advances 4:1–15. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aat1869
Fox TR, Jokela EJ, Allen HL (2007) The development of pine plantation silviculture in the Southern United States. Journal of Forestry 105:337–347. https://doi.org/10.1093/jof/105.7.337
Goldstein A, Turner WR, Spawn SA et al (2020) Protecting irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems. Nature Climate Change 10:287–295. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0738-8
Gutenberg L, Krauss KW, Qu JJ et al (2019) Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Methane Flux from Forested Wetland Soils of the Great Dismal Swamp, USA. Environmental Management 64:190–200. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-019-01177-4
Huang Y, Ciais P, Luo Y et al (2021) Tradeoff of CO2 and CH4 emissions from global peatlands under water-table drawdown. Nature Climate Change 11:618–622. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01059-w
Keller JK, Bridgham SD (2007) Pathways of anaerobic carbon cycling across an ombrotrophic-minerotrophic peatland gradient. Limnology and Oceanograhy 52:96–107
Krauss KW, Whitbeck JL (2011) Soil Greenhouse Gas Fluxes during Wetland Forest Retreat along the Lower Savannah River, Georgia (USA). Wetlands 32:73–81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-011-0246-8
Le Quéré C, Andrew RM, Friedlingstein P et al (2018) Global Carbon Budget 2017. Earth System Science Data 10:405–448. https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-10-405-2018
Leifeld J, Menichetti L (2018) The underappreciated potential of peatlands in global climate change mitigation strategies. Nature Communications 9:1071
Leifeld J, Wüst-Galley C, Page S (2019) Intact and managed peatland soils as a source and sink of GHGs from 1850 to 2100. Nature Climate Change 9:945–947. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0615-5
Liu H, Wrage-Mönnig N, Lennartz B (2020) Rewetting strategies to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from European peatlands. Communications Earth and Environment 1:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-020-00017-2
Livingston GP, Hutchinson GL (1995) Enclosure based measurement of trace-gas exchange: applications and sources of error. In: Matson PA, Harriss RC (eds) Biogenic trace gases: measuring emissions from soil and water. Blackwell Science, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp 14–51
Moore T, Knowles R (1989) The influence of water table levels on methane and carbon dioxide emissions from peatland soils. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 69:33–38. https://doi.org/10.4141/cjss89-004
Morse JL, Ardon M, Bernhardt ES (2012a) Greenhouse gas fluxes in southeastern US coastal plain wetlands under contrasting land uses. Ecological Applications 22:264–280
Morse JL, Ardón M, Bernhardt ES (2012b) Using environmental variables and soil processes to forecast denitrification potential and nitrous oxide fluxes in coastal plain wetlands across different land uses. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences https://doi.org/10.1029/2011JG001923
Morse JL, Bernhardt ES (2013) Using 15N tracers to estimate N2O and N2 emissions from nitrification and denitrification in coastal plain wetlands under contrasting land-uses. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 57:635–643
National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2019) Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda. National Academies Press, Washington D.C., USA https://doi.org/10.17226/25259.
Neubauer SC, Megonigal JP (2021) Biogeochemistry of wetland carbon preservation and flux. Wetland carbon and environmental management. In: Krauss KW, Zhu Z, Stagg CL (eds) Geophysical monograhp series. AGU. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119639305.ch3
Neubauer SC, Megonigal JP (2015) Moving Beyond Global Warming Potentials to Quantify the Climatic Role of Ecosystems. Ecosystems 18:1000–1013. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-015-9879-4
Noon ML, Goldstein A, Ledezma JC et al (2021) Mapping the irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems. Nature Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-021-00803-6
Poulter B, Christensen NL, Halpin PN (2006) Carbon emissions from a temperate peat fire and its relevance to interannual variability of trace atmospheric greenhouse gases. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres D06301 https://doi.org/10.1029/2005jd006455
Reddy KR, DeLaune RD (2008) Biogeochemistry of wetlands: Science and applications. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL
Richardson CJ (2003) Pocosins: Hydrologically isolated or integrated wetlands on the landscape? Wetlands 23:563–576
Richardson CJ (1983) Pocosins: Vanishing wastelands or valuable wetlands? Bioscience 33:626–633
Skaggs RW, Tian S, Chescheir GM et al (2016) Forest drainage. In: Amatya DM, Williams TM, Bren, L. Jong C de (eds) Forest Hydrology: processes, management and assessment. CABI Publisher, U.K. ebooks, p 124
Sleeter R, Sleeter BM, Williams B et al (2017) A carbon balance model for the great dismal swamp ecosystem. Carbon Balance Management 12:2. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13021-017-007-4
Terry TA, Hughes JH (1975) The effects of intensive management on planted loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) growth on poorly drained soils of the Atlantic Coastal Plain. Forest soils and forest land management, Proceeding of the fourth North American Soils Conference. Les Presses de l’Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada, pp 351–377
Turetsky M, Kotowska A, Bubier J et al (2014) A synthesis of methane emissions from 71 northern, temperate, and subtropical wetlands. Global Change Biology 20:2183–2197
Updegraff K, Bridgham SD, Pastor J et al (2001) Response of CO2 and CH4 emissions from peatlands to warming and water table manipulation. Ecological Applications 11:311–326
Wang H, Ho M, Flanagan N, Richardson CJ (2021) The Effects of Hydrological Management on Methane Emissions from Southeastern Shrub Bogs of the USA. Wetlands 41:87. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-021-01486-7
Wang H, Richardson CJ, Ho M (2015) Dual controls on carbon loss during drought in peatlands. Nature Climate Change 5:584–587. https://doi.org/10.1038/NCLIMATE2643
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.
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.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
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