Articles | Volume 6, issue 3
Biogeosciences, 6, 363–374, 2009

Special issue: Peatlands and the carbon cycle – from local processes to global...

Biogeosciences, 6, 363–374, 2009

  13 Mar 2009

13 Mar 2009

The significance of organic carbon and nutrient export from peatland-dominated landscapes subject to disturbance, a stoichiometric perspective

S. Waldron1, H. Flowers2, C. Arlaud3, C. Bryant4, and S. McFarlane2 S. Waldron et al.
  • 1Department of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
  • 2Department of Chemistry, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
  • 3Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Toulouse, 31326 Castanet-Tolosan, France
  • 4NERC Radiocarbon Lab, Scottish Enterprise Technology Park, East Kilbride G75 0QF, UK

Abstract. The terrestrial-aquatic interface is a crucial environment in which to consider the fate of exported terrestrial carbon in the aquatic system. Here the fate of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) may be controlled by nutrient availability. However, peat-dominated headwater catchments are normally of low nutrient status and thus there is little data on how DOC and nutrient export co-varies. We present nutrient and DOC data for two UK catchments dominated by peat headwaters. One, Whitelee, is undergoing development for Europe's largest windfarm. Glen Dye by comparison is relatively undisturbed. At both sites there are significant linear relationships between DOC and soluble reactive phosphorus and nitrate concentrations in the drainage waters. However, inter-catchment differences exist. Changes in the pattern of nutrient and carbon export at Whitelee reveal that landscape disturbance associated with windfarm development impacts the receiving waters, and that nutrient export does not increase in a stoichiometric manner that will promote increase in microbial biomass but rather supports aquatic respiration. In turn greater CO2 efflux may prevail. Hence disturbance of terrestrial carbon stores may impact the both the aquatic and gaseous carbon cycle. We suggest estimates of aquatic carbon export should inform the decision-making process prior to development in ecosystems and catchments with high terrestrial carbon storage.

Final-revised paper