Ecology

Nutrient Dynamics in Peat Bogs

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Science  11 May 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5519, pp. 1023
DOI: 10.1126/science.292.5519.1023a

Peat bogs dominated by Sphagnum moss store up to one-third of the carbon sequestered in soils globally. Hence, the productivity and rates of decay in these ecosystems can influence the global carbon (C) cycle and climate change. Productivity and decay are affected by the input of nitrogen (N) from the atmosphere, and the rates of N deposition have increased in recent years because of human activities. Aerts et al. carried out an experiment over 4 years on Swedish Sphagnum peatlands, in which they manipulated N and phosphorus (P) input. They found no significant direct effects on productivity or decay. However, litter chemistry was significantly altered in several key respects (such as ratios of C:N, C:P, and N:P) that lead to higher potential decay rates. This could in turn lead to greater C losses to the atmosphere. They also found that potential decay was exacerbated by a drought that occurred during the experiment, adding to evidence that extreme climatic events can have significant longer term effects. — AMS

J. Ecol.89, 292 (2001).

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