Modeling relationships between water table depth and peat soil carbon loss in Southeast Asian plantations

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Modeling relationships between water table depth and peat soil carbon loss in Southeast Asian plantations
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Plantation-associated drainage of Southeast Asian peatlands has accelerated in recent years. Draining exposes the upper peat layer to oxygen, leading to elevated decomposition rates and net soil carbon losses. Empirical studies indicate positive relationships between long-term water table (WT) depth and soil carbon loss rate in peatlands. These correlations potentially enable using WT depth as a proxy for soil carbon losses from peatland plantations. Here, we compile data from published research assessing WT depth and carbon balance in tropical plantations on peat. We model net carbon loss from subsidence studies, as well as soil respiration (heterotrophic and total) from closed chamber studies, as a function of WT depth. WT depth across all 12 studies and 59 sites is 67 ± 20 cm (mean ± standard deviation). Mean WT depth is positively related to net carbon loss, as well as soil respiration rate. Our models explain 45% of net carbon loss variation and 45–63% of soil respiration variation. At a 70 cm WT depth, the subsidence model suggests net carbon loss of 20 tC ha−1 yr−1 (95% confidence interval (CI) 18–22 tC ha−1 yr−1) for plantations drained for >2 yr. Closed chamber-measured total soil respiration at this depth is 20 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (CI 17–24 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1) while heterotrophic respiration is 17 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (CI 14–20 tC-CO2 ha−1 yr−1), ~82% of total respiration. While land use is not a significant predictor of soil respiration, WT depths are greater at acacia (75 ± 16 cm) than oil palm (59 ± 15 cm) sample sites. Improved spatio-temporal sampling of the full suite of peat soil carbon fluxes—including fluvial carbon export and organic fertilizer inputs—will clarify multiple mechanisms leading to carbon loss and gain, supporting refined assessments of the global warming potential of peatland drainage.
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carbon losses from tropical drained peatlands related to water table depth paper aims to answer this question by providing the 1st comprehensive review of recently published tropical peat carbon research Pulitzer wetlands with a big
organic soil they're called Pete because peel and
have high water tables decomposition occurs very slowly carbon inputs are greater than carbon emissions over thousands of years of organic matter accumulates creating carbon rich soil and important global carbon sink
currently Southeast Asian peatlands are being cleared and drained to make way for plantations especially oil palm and pulpwood when the lines are drained organic matter is exposed to air and decomposition rate increase Pete begins to lose stored carbon mainly the emissions of carbon dioxide from the cell surface drained peat also subsides a process in which the land surface sinks each year companies and
governments want to find simple yet accurate ways to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from the land training in order to assess the contribution to climate change 1 idea is to use water table depth the distance between the soil surface and the water table as a proxy for carbon loss however it is very unclear whether water tables are a good predictor of carbon loss we compiled data from 12
studies conducted in tree plantations in
southeast Asia and looked at the relationship between carbon loss and water table depth I heterotrophic respiration consists of soil carbon dioxide emissions from decomposition we found that heterotrophic respiration on the Y. axis is positively in significantly related to water table that on the X. axis this relationship holds across sample sites with colors representing studies and shapes indicating vegetation types total respiration is the sum of heterotrophic respiration and respiration related to plant roots total respiration is also correlated with water table depth finally we calculated net carbon loss using subsidence methods again water table depth is positively related to net carbon loss at a typical plantation drainage depth of 70 centimeters are subsidence model suggests net carbon lost about 20 tons of carbon per hectare per year this is substantially greater than studies applying a mass balance approach which tracks all sources of carbon input and debit from the peat soil additional research is needed to reconcile these findings and to assess the global warming potential of people and drainage ultimately reducing greenhouse
gas emissions from peat requires preventing plantation expansion into intact peat swamp forests such as this in loopy in Indonesian Borneo