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Environmental and Substrate Controls over Carbon and Nitrogen Mineralization in Northern Wetlands

Karen Updegraff, John Pastor, Scott D. Bridgham and Carol A. Johnston
Ecological Applications
Vol. 5, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 151-163
Published by: Wiley
DOI: 10.2307/1942060
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1942060
Page Count: 13
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Environmental and Substrate Controls over Carbon and Nitrogen Mineralization in Northern Wetlands
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Abstract

Northern wetlands may be a potential carbon source to the atmosphere upon global warming, particularly with regard to methane. However, recent conclusions have largely been based on short-term field measurements. We incubated three wetland soils representing a range of substrate quality for 80 wk in the laboratory under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions at 15@? and 30@?C. The soils were obtained from a Scirpus-Carex-dominated meadow in an abandoned beaver pond and from the surface and at 1 m depth of a spruce (Picea)-Sphagnum bog in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota. Substrate quality was assessed by fractionation of carbon compounds and summarized using principal components analysis. Nitrogen and carbon mineralization, the partitioning of carbon between carbon dioxide and methane, pH, and Eh were measured periodically over the course of the incubation. The responses of nitrogen mineralization, carbon mineralization, and trace gas partitioning to both temperature and aeration depended strongly on the substrate quality of the soils. Sedge meadow soil had the highest nitrogen and carbon mineralization rates and methane production under anaerobic conditions, and carbon mineralization under aerobic conditions, but the surface peats had the highest nitrogen mineralization rates under aerobic conditions. Methanogenesis was highest in the sedge soil but less sensitive to temperature than in the peats. A double exponential model showed that most of the variation in nitrogen and carbon mineralization among the soils and treatments was accounted for by differences in the size and kinetics of a relatively small labile pool. The kinetics of this pool were more sensitive to changes in temperature and aeration than that of the larger recalcitrant pool. Principal components analysis separated the soils on the basis of labile and recalcitrant carbon fractions. Total C and N mineralization correlated positively with the factor representing labile elements, while methanogenesis also showed a negative correlation with the factor representing recalcitrant elements. Estimates of atmospheric feedbacks from northern wetlands upon climatic change must account for extreme local variation in substrate quality and wetland type; global projections based on extrapolations from a few field measurements do not account for this local variation and may be in error.

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