Rapid: Nitrogen Cycling Immediately After Fire in an Alberta Bog
Funded by National Science Foundation RAPID Award #DEB-1143719
Cara Albright, Research
Technician, Villanova University
Jeremy Hartsock, Villanova University
Utikuma Bog: Fire!
This project was funded and established in the summer of 2011 just one month after fire moved through one of our existing research sites. Prior to burning in 2011, this site had been undisturbed by fire for approximately 100 years, and was very recently a lush green ecosystem. This is a peatland, and peatlands are moss-dominated, nutrient-poor ecosystems characterized by an accumulation of soil organic matter resulting from a long-term excess of net primary production (NPP) at the surface over decomposition throughout the peat column. In short, moss grows and the system accumulates C and therefore N storing these elements in the peat column faster than decomposition can release them to the environment. Peatlands of boreal continental Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) cover 365,157 km2 and store 42 Pg of C and 76 Tg of N, corresponding to impressive C and N stocks of 115 and 2.1 kg/m2 of peatland, respectively. We proposed a new conceptual framework for how N cycles in boreal peatlands, hypothesizing that both time-since-fire and the level of atmospheric N deposition are key drivers of the relative importance of N transformations in peatlands. Through our research we hope to tease apart the C-N cycles in Peat and have made great advances to this end.
We have 24 plots at Utikuma and are generating thousands of data points. Much of this data will not be posted until after publication. Available currently:
Photo: Utikuma bog immediately after burn