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Green leaf phenological characteristics of boreal peatland vegetation impacted by linear disturbances


Davidson, Scott (2021), Green leaf phenological characteristics of boreal peatland vegetation impacted by linear disturbances, Dryad, Dataset,


Vast areas of boreal peatlands are impacted by linear disturbances known as seismic lines. Tree removal and ground disturbance alter vegetation communities and are expected to change ecosystem functioning. As boreal landscapes continue to be disturbed by linear disturbances, understanding the magnitude and mechanisms of vegetation and phenology changes is the first step toward predicting carbon cycling changes across broad spatial scales. We investigate seismic line disturbances on peatland plant community composition and phenological patterns using readily available digital photography at a bog and a fen in Alberta, Canada. Our objectives were to: 1) compare the understory peatland vegetation on seismic lines with those in adjacent undisturbed areas using two phenological metrics (green and red chromatic coordinates); 2) evaluate if vegetation greenness is directly related to vegetation community composition, and 3) determine whether plot-scale greenness predicts plant productivity. We found that areas of peatlands intersected by seismic lines have an earlier seasonal peak (maximum greenness) compared to undisturbed areas, and vegetation communities had a stronger relationship to greenness and gross primary production (GPP) at disturbed areas relative to undisturbed areas. This change in understory vegetation results in greater CO2 uptake in disturbed areas. We demonstrate an easy-to-use application of digital photography that successfully quantifies phenological changes in boreal peatland vegetation. This non-destructive method for understanding vegetation phenology eliminated the need for fixed infrastructure and allowed us to expand our sampling capacity and study sites while allowing for repeated measures in the future.