Responses of phenology and biomass production of boreal fens to climate warming under different water-table level regimes
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CitationMäkiranta P. Laiho R. Mehtätalo L. Straková P. Sormunen J. Minkkinen K. Penttilä T. Fritze H. Tuittila ES. (2018). Responses of phenology and biomass production of boreal fens to climate warming under different water-table level regimes. GLOBAL CHANGE BIOLOGY, 24, 944–956. 10.1111/gcb.13934.
Climate change affects peatlands directly through increased air temperatures and indirectly through changes in water‐table level (WL). The interactions of these two still remain poorly known. We determined experimentally the separate and interactive effects of temperature and WL regime on factors of relevance for the inputs to the carbon cycle: plant community composition, phenology, biomass production, and shoot:root allocation in two wet boreal sedge‐dominated fens, “southern” at 62°N and “northern” at 68°Ν. Warming (1.5°C higher average daily air temperature) was induced with open‐top chambers and WL drawdown (WLD; 3–7 cm on average) by shallow ditches. Total biomass production varied from 250 to 520 g/m2, with belowground production comprising 25%–63%. Warming was associated with minor effects on phenology and negligible effects on community composition, biomass production, and allocation. WLD clearly affected the contribution of different plant functional types (PFTs) in the community and the biomass they produced: shrubs benefited while forbs and mosses suffered. These responses did not depend on the warming treatment. Following WLD, aboveground biomass production decreased mainly due to reduced growth of mosses in the southern fen. Aboveground vascular plant biomass production remained unchanged but the contribution of different PFTs changed. The observed changes were also reflected in plant phenology, with different PFTs showing different responses. Belowground production increased following WLD in the northern fen only, but an increase in the contributions of shrubs and forbs was observed in both sites, while sedge contribution decreased. Moderate warming alone seems not able to drive significant changes in plant productivity or community composition in these wet ecosystems. However, if warming is accompanied by even modest WL drawdown, changes should be expected in the relative contribution of PFTs, which could lead to profound changes in the function of fens. Consequently, hydrological scenarios are of utmost importance when estimating their future function.