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Data from: Mechanisms for the development of microform patterns in peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland

Cite this dataset

Harris, Lorna I; Roulet, Nigel T; Moore, Tim R (2020). Data from: Mechanisms for the development of microform patterns in peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland [Dataset]. Dryad.


Spatial surface patterns of hummocks, hollows, ridges, and pools (microtopography) are common features of many northern peatlands and are particularly distinct within the vast peatlands of the Hudson Bay Lowland (HBL), Canada. Hypotheses and models describe how small-scale feedbacks among vegetation, hydrology, and nutrients cause spatial differences in peat accumulation that enable microforms and surface patterns to develop over time. Empirical tests of the predictions from theoretical models of these proposed feedback mechanisms are limited, particularly in large peatland complexes such as the HBL. We investigate feedbacks controlling peatland structure and function in an ombrogenous bog and a minerogenous fen in the HBL. Our sites represent surface patterns found in many northern peatlands, specifically spatially irregular hummocks and hollows, and parallel ridges and pools that are perpendicular to slope. We found the occurrence of different spatial patterns depends on position within a peat landform, with these differences attributed to the ecohydrological setting. In turn, the ecohydrological setting, with different water table depths, nutrient availability, and species composition, influences the strength and direction of feedback mechanisms at the microform scale. Our data support the prediction of a positive feedback between plant productivity and acrotelm thickness for peat accumulation and hummock growth, and that this may be enhanced by water ponding on slopes to form ridge-pool tracks. We did not find evidence to support the proposed feedback among evapotranspiration (ET)-driven transport of water and nutrients for the development of hummocks. Our results suggest a combination of mechanisms operating at various temporal and spatial scales are associated with the development of surface patterns in northern peatlands.

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Hudson Bay Lowland