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Deep peat warming increases surface methane and carbon dioxide emissions in a black spruce‐dominated ombrotrophic bog

Gill, Allison L., Giasson, Marc‐André, Yu, Rieka, Finzi, Adrien C.
Global change biology 2017 v.23 no.12 pp. 5398-5411
Picea, carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide production, climate change, evapotranspiration, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, growing season, heat, methane, methane production, organic carbon, peat, peatlands, soil, temperature
Boreal peatlands contain approximately 500 Pg carbon (C) in the soil, emit globally significant quantities of methane (CH₄), and are highly sensitive to climate change. Warming associated with global climate change is likely to increase the rate of the temperature‐sensitive processes that decompose stored organic carbon and release carbon dioxide (CO₂) and CH₄. Variation in the temperature sensitivity of CO₂ and CH₄ production and increased peat aerobicity due to enhanced growing‐season evapotranspiration may alter the nature of peatland trace gas emission. As CH₄ is a powerful greenhouse gas with 34 times the warming potential of CO₂, it is critical to understand how factors associated with global change will influence surface CO₂ and CH₄ fluxes. Here, we leverage the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Changing Environments (SPRUCE) climate change manipulation experiment to understand the impact of a 0–9°C gradient in deep belowground warming (“Deep Peat Heat”, DPH) on peat surface CO₂ and CH₄ fluxes. We find that DPH treatments increased both CO₂ and CH₄ emission. Methane production was more sensitive to warming than CO₂ production, decreasing the C‐CO₂:C‐CH₄ of the respired carbon. Methane production is dominated by hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis but deep peat warming increased the δ¹³C of CH₄ suggesting an increasing contribution of acetoclastic methanogenesis to total CH₄ production with warming. Although the total quantity of C emitted from the SPRUCE Bog as CH₄ is <2%, CH₄ represents >50% of seasonal C emissions in the highest‐warming treatments when adjusted for CO₂ equivalents on a 100‐year timescale. These results suggest that warming in boreal regions may increase CH₄ emissions from peatlands and result in a positive feedback to ongoing warming.