Dependence of ombrotrophic peat nitrogen on phosphorus and climate

Toberman, Hannah; Tipping, Edward ORCID:; Boyle, John F.; Helliwell, Rachel C.; Lilly, Allan; Henrys, Peter A.. 2015 Dependence of ombrotrophic peat nitrogen on phosphorus and climate. Biogeochemistry, 125 (1). 11-20.

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Nitrogen (N) is a key, possibly limiting, nutrient in ombrotrophic peat ecosystems, and enrichment by pollutant N in atmospheric deposition (Ndep, g m-2 a-1) is of concern with regard to peatland damage. We collated data on the N content of surface (depth ≤ 25 cm, mean 15 cm) ombrotrophic peat (Nsp) for 215 sites in the UK and 62 other sites around the world, including boreal, temperate and tropical locations (wider global data), and found Nsp to range from 0.5 % to 4%. We examined the dependences of Nsp on surface peat phosphorus (P) content (Psp), mean annual precipitation (MAP), mean annual temperature (MAT) and Ndep. Linear regression on individual independent variables showed highly significant (p < 0.001) correlations of Nsp with Psp (r2 = 0.23) and MAP (r2 = 0.14), and significant (p < 0.01) but weaker correlations with MAT (r2 = 0.03) and Ndep (r2 = 0.03). A multiple regression model using log-transformed values explained 36% of the variance of the UK data, 84% of the variance of the wider global data, and 47% of the variance of the combined data, all with high significance (p < 0.001). In all three cases, most of the variance was explained by Psp and MAP, but in view of a positive correlation between MAP and MAT for many of the sites, a role for MAT in controlling Nsp cannot be ruled out. There is little evidence for an effect of Ndep on Nsp. The results point to a key role of P in N fixation, and thereby C fixation, in ombrotrophic peats.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0168-2563
Additional Keywords: peat, ombrotrophic, nitrogen, phosphorus, climate, nitrogen deposition
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 30 Jul 2015 14:19 +0 (UTC)

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