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Nitrogen Retention by Sphagnum fuscum in Laboratory Mesocosms: Responses to Experimentally Added NH4+-N and NO3−-N

Hartsock, Jeremy A., Wieder, R. Kelman, Vile, Melanie A.
Wetlands 2019 v.39 no.1 pp. 79-85
Sphagnum fuscum, ammonium nitrogen, bogs, leachates, nitrates, nitrogen, nitrogen fixation, nitrogen retention, peat, pollution load, rain, Alberta
To evaluate the effects of increasing atmospheric N deposition on net C and N accumulation in Sphagnum-dominated bogs, we conducted a laboratory mesocosm experiment. Following 45 days of watering with N-free rainwater, mesocosms were exposed to simulated atmospheric N deposition values of 0, 4.14, 8.18, and 12.42 mg N m⁻² da⁻¹ over a 108 day period. We quantified N retention from leachate N concentrations and from changes in N contents of the Sphagnum/peat mesocosms. As N loading of simulated atmospheric N deposition increased, so did the net retention of simulated atmospherically deposited N. Our hypothesis of a decrease in N retention efficiency with increasing N loading was not observed. Further, for each N loading treatment, rates of retention of simulated atmospherically deposited N remained constant over time. We did not observe a threshold N deposition below which N would be retained in mesocosms and above which N passed through the mesocosms. Substantially more N was retained in mesocosms that was added in simulated atmospheric N deposition, suggesting an unaccounted for N source, most likely biological N₂ fixation. In locations where N₂ fixation represents a much greater source of new N to Sphagnum-dominated bogs, as in northern Alberta, Canada, increasing atmospheric N deposition may have a minimal effect on overall net N accumulation in peat.