Articles | Volume 12, issue 8
Research article
24 Apr 2015
Research article |  | 24 Apr 2015

Changes of the CO2 and CH4 production potential of rewetted fens in the perspective of temporal vegetation shifts

D. Zak, H. Reuter, J. Augustin, T. Shatwell, M. Barth, J. Gelbrecht, and R. J. McInnes

Abstract. Rewetting of long-term drained fens often results in the formation of eutrophic shallow lakes with an average water depth of less than 1 m. This is accompanied by a fast vegetation shift from cultivated grasses via submerged hydrophytes to helophytes. As a result of rapid plant dying and decomposition, these systems are highly dynamic wetlands characterised by a high mobilisation of nutrients and elevated emissions of CO2 and CH4. However, the impact of specific plant species on these phenomena is not clear. Therefore we investigated the CO2 and CH4 production due to the subaqueous decomposition of shoot biomass of five selected plant species which represent different rewetting stages (Phalaris arundinacea, Ceratophyllum demersum, Typha latifolia, Phragmites australis and Carex riparia) during a 154 day mesocosm study. Beside continuous gas flux measurements, we performed bulk chemical analysis of plant tissue, including carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and plant polymer dynamics. Plant-specific mass losses after 154 days ranged from 25% (P. australis) to 64% (C. demersum). Substantial differences were found for the CH4 production with highest values from decomposing C. demersum (0.4 g CH4 kg−1 dry mass day) that were about 70 times higher than CH4 production from C. riparia. Thus, we found a strong divergence between mass loss of the litter and methane production during decomposition. If C. demersum as a hydrophyte is included in the statistical analysis solely nutrient contents (nitrogen and phosphorus) explain varying greenhouse gas production of the different plant species while lignin and polyphenols demonstrate no significant impact at all. Taking data of annual biomass production as important carbon source for methanogens into account, high CH4 emissions can be expected to last several decades as long as inundated and nutrient-rich conditions prevail. Different restoration measures like water level control, biomass extraction and top soil removal are discussed in the context of mitigation of CH4 emissions from rewetted fens.

Short summary
In this paper, the CO2 and CH4 production due to the subaqueous decomposition of the five most abundant plant species, which are considered to be representative of different rewetting stages, will be presented. Beside continuous gas flux measurements, bulk chemical analyses of plant tissue were performed to gain insights into changing litter characteristics. With respect to temporal vegetation shifts in rewetted fens, the results provide new insights into the climate effect of these ecosystems.
Final-revised paper