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Graminoids vary in functional traits, carbon dioxide and methane fluxes in a restored peatland: implications for modeling carbon storage

Citation

Goud, Ellie; Touchette, Sabrina; Strachan, Ian; Strack, Maria (2022), Graminoids vary in functional traits, carbon dioxide and methane fluxes in a restored peatland: implications for modeling carbon storage, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.6m905qg2b

Abstract

1. One metric of peatland restoration success is the re-establishment of a carbon sink, yet considerable uncertainty remains around the timescale of carbon sink trajectories. Conditions post-restoration may promote the establishment of vascular plants such as graminoids, often at greater density than would be found in undisturbed peatlands, with consequences for carbon storage. Although graminoid species are often considered as a single plant functional type (PFT) in land-atmosphere models, our understanding of functional variation among graminoid species is limited, particularly in a restoration context.

2. We used a traits-based approach to evaluate graminoid functional variation and to assess whether different graminoid species should be considered a single PFT or multiple types. We tested hypotheses that greenhouse gas fluxes (CO2, CH4) would vary due to differences in plant traits among five graminoid species in a restored peatland in central Alberta, Canada. We further hypothesized that species would form two functionally distinct groupings based on taxonomy (grass, sedge).

3. Differences in gas fluxes among species were primarily driven by variation in leaf physiology related to photosynthetic efficiency and resource-use, and secondarily by plant size. Multivariate analyses did not reveal distinct functional groupings based on taxonomy or environmental preferences. Rather, we identified functional groups defined by plant traits and carbon fluxes that are consistent with ecological strategies related to differences in growth rate, resource-acquisition, and leaf economics, representing plants with either a strategy to grow quickly and invest in resource capture or to prioritize structural investment and resource conservation. These functional groups displayed larger average carbon fluxes compared to graminoid PFTs currently used in modeling.

4. Existing PFT designations in peatland models may be more appropriate for pristine or high-latitude systems than those under restoration. Although replacing PFTs with plant traits remains a challenge in peatlands, traits related to leaf physiology and growth rate strategies offer a promising avenue for future applications.

Funding

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada