Drainage increases CO2 and N2O emissions from tropical peat soils

Tropical peatlands are vital ecosystems that play an important role in global carbon storage and cycles. Current estimates of greenhouse gases from these peatlands are uncertain as emissions vary with environmental conditions. This study provides the first comprehensive analysis of managed and natural tropical peatland GHG fluxes: heterotrophic (i.e. soil respiration without roots), total CO2 respiration rates, CH4 and N2O fluxes. The study documents studies that measure GHG fluxes from the soil (n = 372) from various land uses, groundwater levels and environmental conditions. We found that total soil respiration was larger in managed peat ecosystems (median = 52.3 Mg CO2 ha−1 year−1) than in natural forest (median = 35.9 Mg CO2 ha−1 year−1). Groundwater level had a stronger effect on soil CO2 emission than land use. Every 100 mm drop of groundwater level caused an increase of 5.1 and 3.7 Mg CO2 ha−1 year−1 for plantation and cropping land use, respectively. Where groundwater is deep (≥0.5 m), heterotrophic respiration constituted 84% of the total emissions. N2O emissions were significantly larger at deeper groundwater levels, where every drop in 100 mm of groundwater level resulted in an exponential emission increase (exp(0.7) kg N ha−1 year−1). Deeper groundwater levels induced high N2O emissions, which constitute about 15% of total GHG emissions. CH4 emissions were large where groundwater is shallow; however, they were substantially smaller than other GHG emissions. When compared to temperate and boreal peatland soils, tropical peatlands had, on average, double the CO2 emissions. Surprisingly, the CO2 emission rates in tropical peatlands were in the same magnitude as tropical mineral soils. This comprehensive analysis provides a great understanding of the GHG dynamics within tropical peat soils that can be used as a guide for policymakers to create suitable programmes to manage the sustainability of peatlands effectively.
  • Authors: Prananto, J.A., Minasny, B., Comeau, L.-P., Rudiyanto, Grace, P.
  • Author Affiliation: University of Sydney, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Queensland University of Technology
  • Subjects: peatlands, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, soil carbon
  • Publication type: Journal Article, ISI
  • Source: Global Change Biology 26(8): 4583-4600
  • Year: 2020
  • DOI:
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