Modelling contrasting responses of wetland productivity to changes in water table depth

Grant, R. F.; Desai, A. R.; Sulman, B. N.

Responses of wetland productivity to changes in water table depth (WTD) are controlled by complex interactions among several soil and plant processes, and hence are site-specific rather than general in nature. Hydrological controls on wetland productivity were studied by representing these interactions in connected hummock and hollow sites in the ecosystem model ecosys, and by testing CO 2 and energy fluxes from the model with those measured by eddy covariance (EC) during years with contrasting WTD in a shrub fen at Lost Creek, WI. Modelled interactions among coupled processes for O 2 transfer, O 2 uptake, C oxidation, N mineralization, N uptake and C fixation by diverse microbial, root and mycorrhizal populations enabled the model to simulate complex responses of CO 2 exchange to changes in WTD that depended on the WTD at which change was occurring. At the site scale, greater WTD caused the model to simulate greater CO 2 influxes and effluxes over hummocks vs. hollows, as has been found at field sites. At the landscape scale, greater WTD caused the model to simulate greater diurnal CO 2 influxes and effluxes under cooler weather when water tables were shallow, but also smaller diurnal CO 2 influxes and effluxes under warmer weather when water tables were deeper, as was also apparent in the EC flux measurements. At an annual time scale, these diurnal responses to WTD in the model caused lower net primary productivity (NPP) and heterotrophic respiration ( Rh), but higher net ecosystem productivity (NEP = NPP − Rh), to be simulated in a cooler year with a shallower water table than in a warmer year with a deeper one. This difference in NEP was consistent with those estimated from gap-filled EC fluxes in years with different water tables at Lost Creek and at similar boreal fens elsewhere. In sensitivity tests of the model, annual NEP declined with increasing WTD in a year with a shallow water table, but rose in a year with a deeper one. The model thus provided an integrated set of hypotheses for explaining site-specific and sometimes contrasting responses of wetland productivity to changes in WTD as found in different field experiments.

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Grant, R. F. / Desai, A. R. / Sulman, B. N.: Modelling contrasting responses of wetland productivity to changes in water table depth. 2012. Copernicus Publications.

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