Drainage, vegetation removal and harvesting, and vegetation restoration have a profound effect on carbon cycling in peatlands. Through laboratory incubations of 114 peat samples collected from the surface layer and just above and just below the water table at 13 sites, we examined the potential for carbon dioxide (CO2) production under aerobic and anaerobic conditions and methane (CH4) production under anaerobic conditions. CO2 production rates ranged from 0.04 to 1.05 mg g−1 d−1 under aerobic conditions and 0.01 to 0.29 mg g−1 d−1 under anaerobic conditions. Rates of CO2 production were generally smallest in the lower parts of the profiles and at the recently restored sites where deep peat was exposed at the surface; they were largest in the freshly-formed surface peat at the undisturbed bog and older restoration sites where a strong cover of vegetation had developed. The CO2 production potentials were negatively correlated with the Von Post Index of decomposition, and aerobic:anaerobic production ratios averaged 4.3: 1. Largest rates of anaerobic CH4 production occurred in samples close to the soil surface with fresh peat accumulation and a high water table, and smallest rates were in samples from the subsurface of sites with a low water table. Anaerobic CH4 production was significantly positively correlated with aerobic and anaerobic CO2 production. These production potentials show that drainage, harvesting, and restoration change the ability of the peat profile to produce and emit CO2 and CH4.
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