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Dissolved organic matter concentration and composition discontinuity at the peat-pool interface in a boreal peatland

Abstract : Pools are common features of peatlands and can represent from 5 % to 50 % of the peatland ecosystem's surface area. Pools play an important role in the peatland carbon cycle by releasing carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere. However, the origin of this carbon is not well constrained. A hypothesis is that the majority of the carbon emitted from pools predominantly originates from mineralized allochthonous (i.e., plant-derived) dissolved organic matter (DOM) from peat rather than in situ primary production. To test this hypothesis, this study examined the origin, composition, and degradability of DOM in peat porewater and pools of an ombrotrophic boreal peatland in northeastern Quebec (Canada) for 2 years over the growing season. The temporal evolution of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration, the optical properties, molecular composition (THM-GC-MS), stable isotopic signature (δ13C-DOC), and degradability of DOM were determined. This study demonstrates that DOM, in both peat porewater and pools, presents a diverse composition and constitutes highly dynamic components of peatland ecosystems. The molecular and isotopic analyses showed that DOM in pools was derived from plants. However, DOM compositions in the two environments were markedly different. Peat porewater DOM was more aromatic, with a higher molecular weight and DOC : DON (dissolved organic nitrogen) ratio compared to pools. The temporal dynamics of DOC concentration and DOM composition also differed. In peat porewater, the DOC concentration followed a strong seasonal increase, starting from 9 mg L−1 and reaching a plateau above 20 mg L−1 in summer and autumn. This was explained by seasonal peatland vegetation productivity, which is greater than microbial DOM degradation. In pools, DOC concentration also increased but remained 2 times lower than in the peat porewaters at the end of the growing season (∼ 10 mg L−1). Those differences might be explained by a combination of physical, chemical, and biological factors. The limited hydraulic conductivity in deeper peat horizons and associated DOM residence time might have favored both DOM microbial transformation within the peat and the interaction of DOM aromatic compounds with the peat matrix, explaining part of the shift of DOM compositions between peat porewater and pools. This study did not report any photolability of DOM and only limited microbial degradability. Thus, it is likely that the DOM might have been microbially transformed at the interface between peat and pools. The combination of DOM quantitative and qualitative analyses presented in this study demonstrates that most of the carbon present within and released from the pools originates from peat vegetation. These results demonstrate that pools represent a key component of the peatland ecosystem ecological and biogeochemical functioning.
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Submitted on : Thursday, September 22, 2022 - 3:24:27 PM
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Antonin Prijac, Laure Gandois, Laurent Jeanneau, Pierre Taillardat, Michelle Garneau. Dissolved organic matter concentration and composition discontinuity at the peat-pool interface in a boreal peatland. Biogeosciences, European Geosciences Union, 2022, 19 (18), pp.4571-4588. ⟨10.5194/bg-19-4571-2022⟩. ⟨insu-03783949⟩

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