Are peatlands in different states with respect to their thermodynamic behaviour? A simple test of peatland energy and entropy budgets

Worrall, Fred; Morrison, Ross ORCID:; Evans, Chris ORCID:; Kaduk, Joerg; Page, Susan; Cumming, Alex; Rayment, Mark; Kettridge, Nicholas. 2021 Are peatlands in different states with respect to their thermodynamic behaviour? A simple test of peatland energy and entropy budgets. Hydrological Processes, 35 (12), e14431. 14, pp.

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Whilst all ecosystems must obey the second law of thermodynamics, these physical bounds and controls on ecosystem evolution and development are largely ignored across the ecohydrological literature. To unravel the importance of these underlying restraints on ecosystem form and function, and their power to inform our scientific understanding, we have calculated the entropy budget of a range of peat ecosystems. We hypothesise that less disturbed peatlands are “near equilibrium” with respect to the 2nd law of thermodynamics and thus respond to change by minimising entropy production. This “near equilibrium” state is best achieved by limiting evaporative losses. Alternatively, peatlands “far-from–equilibrium” respond to a change in energy inputs by maximising entropy production which is best achieved by increasing evapotranspiration. To test these alternatives this study examined the energy balance time series from seven peatlands across a disturbance gradient. We estimate the entropy budgets for each and determine how a change in net radiation (ΔRn) was transferred to a change in latent heat flux (ΔλE). The study showed that: i. The transfer of net radiation to latent heat differed significantly between peatlands. One group transferred up to 64% of the change in net radiation to a change in latent heat flux, while the second transferred as little as 27%. ii. Sites that transferred the most energy to latent heat flux were those that produced the greatest entropy. The study shows that an ecosystem could be “near equilibrium” rather than “far from equilibrium”.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0885-6087
Additional Keywords: 2nd law of thermodynamics, evaporation, net radiation, peatland ecosystem, entropy, disturbance
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 29 Nov 2021 11:04 +0 (UTC)

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