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Peat depth as a control on moss water availability during drought
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  • Paul Moore,
  • Benjamin Didemus,
  • Alexander Furukawa,
  • James Waddington
Paul Moore
McMaster University
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Benjamin Didemus
McMaster University
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Alexander Furukawa
McMaster University
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James Waddington
McMaster University
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Peatlands are globally important long-term sinks of carbon, however there is concern that enhanced moss moisture stress due to climate change mediated drought will reduce moss productivity making these ecosystems vulnerable to carbon loss and associated long-term degradation. Peatlands are resilient to summer drought moss stress because of negative ecohydrological feedbacks that generally maintain a wet peat surface, but where feedbacks may be contingent on peat depth. We tested this ‘survival of the deepest’ hypothesis by examining water table position, near-surface moisture content, and soil water tension in peatlands that differ in size, peat depth, and catchment area during a summer drought. All shallow sites lost their WT (i.e. the groundwater well was dry) for considerable time during the drought period. Near-surface soil water tension increased dramatically at shallow sites following water table loss, increasing ~5–7.5× greater at shallow sites compared to deep sites. During a mid-summer drought intensive field survey we found that 60%–67% of plots at shallow sites exceeded a 100 mb tension threshold used to infer moss water stress. Unlike the shallow sites, tension typically did not exceed this 100 mb threshold at the deep sites. Using species dependent water content - chlorophyll fluorescence thresholds and relations between volumetric water content and water table depth, Monte Carlo simulations suggest that moss had nearly twice the likelihood of being stressed at shallow sites (0.38 ± 0.24) compared to deep sites (0.22 ± 0.18). This study provides evidence that mosses in shallow peatland may be particularly vulnerable to warmer and drier climates in the future, but where species composition may play an important role. We argue that a critical ‘threshold’ peat depth specific for different hydrogeological and hydroclimatic regions can be used to assess what peatlands are especially vulnerable to climate change mediated drought.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

03 Dec 2020Submitted to Hydrological Processes
07 Dec 2020Submission Checks Completed
07 Dec 2020Assigned to Editor
07 Dec 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
28 Jan 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
12 Feb 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
03 Mar 20211st Revision Received
04 Mar 2021Submission Checks Completed
04 Mar 2021Assigned to Editor
04 Mar 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
04 Mar 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
04 Mar 2021Editorial Decision: Accept