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The Effect of Water Table Levels and Short-term Ditch Restoration on Mountain Peatland Carbon Cycling in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

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Tropical mountain peatlands are abundant in the Andes but are under intense grazing pressure and subject to climate change, both of which alter hydrologic conditions. Therefore, our first objective was to assess how carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) fluxes change across a hydrological gradient in a mountain peatland in Huascaran National Park, Peru. Our second objective was to evaluate how short-term carbon cycling is changed after rewetting from ditch blocking. CO2 and CH4 effluxes were measured using the static chamber method. Net ecosystem exchange in the reference and the unrestored areas were on average 1.07 ± 0.06, and 0.76 ± 0.11 g CO2 m-2 hr-1. Although this is a groundwater fed peatland, we found that drained areas responded more to seasonal precipitation. Unexpectedly, ecosystem respiration in the unrestored treatment increased as water table rose in the rainy season. CH4 emissions were 2.76 ± 1.06 mg CH4 m-2 day-1 on average. However, at water table levels below -10 cm, CH4 fluxes were zero. Although establishing the effect of restoration was complicated in this study by the timing of the wet season, our results indicate that rewetting increased Net Ecosystem Exchange and the ability to store carbon to near reference conditions.

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    Planas-Clarke, A.M.




    peatlands, mountain areas, carbon cycle



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