Characterizing Spatial and Temporal Variations in Nutrient and CO2 Dynamics Within and Across Peatlands in the Western Boreal Plain, Canada

Meagan Wood
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This thesis is comprising two studies characterizing nutrient dynamics within the Athabasca Oil Sands region (AOS) of Alberta. The first study simultaneously examined and compared nutrient (nitrogen, N and phosphorus, P) dynamics (extractable pools, net transformation (mineralization) rates and supply rates) and rates of terrestrial CO2 exchange within a poor fen (JACOS) throughout the growing season of 2012 to characterize seasonal patterns in nutrient and carbon dynamics and determine if relationships existed between these. A second objective of the first
study was to determine if a semi-permanent road constructed across the fen that obstructed the natural flow of groundwater, impacted nutrient and CO2 exchange processes The second study focused on the peak growing season and compared nutrient dynamics between the JACOS site and four additional peatlands that fell along an apparent hydrologic and minerotrophic gradient.

Our studies determined that there is not one single driver that controls N, P and CO2 dynamics within this landscape, and demonstrates that variable hydrology affects biogeochemical cycles in different ways. This finding complicates recommendations for reclamation projects as managers may be forced to optimize for a given
biogeochemical cycle. In the WBP, nutrient dynamics did not appear to vary along a hydrologic gradient, suggesting that the moisture thresholds required to affect nutrient cycles are greater than what has been shown for carbon.