Moisture controls on Sphagnum growth and CO2 exchange on a cutover bog.
Abandoned cutover peatlands are persistent sources of atmospheric CO2. Net ecosystem CO2 exchange and Sphagnum net primary production of an abandoned block-cut bog were measured in the field and in the laboratory using gas exchange techniques to determine the processes controlling CO2 exchange in these ecosystems. The peatland studied, Cacouna Bog, is located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of Québec, Canada. Sphagnum net primary production was offset by peat respiration, resulting in the peatland becoming a net source of CO2 during the summer months. Sphagnum photosynthesis was greatest at wet sites. In addition, sites with vascular plant cover photosynthesized at approximately twice the rate of sites where vascular plants were removed. Laboratory results indicate that drying and wetting cycles negatively affect Sphagnum net primary production and net ecosystem CO2 exchange. Sphagnum and peat respiration increased 4-14-fold upon rewetting, whereas Sphagnum photosynthesis did not recover until 20 days of saturation. This research emphasizes the importance of stable moisture availability for the growth of Sphagnum and the eventual development of a new acrotelm on the cutover bog surface. Restoration techniques must therefore include companion species and a constant moisture supply above the minimum threshold for Sphagnum mosses.