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Title: Controls on carbon cycling in upland blanket peat soils
Author: Dixon, Simon David
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2012
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Peatlands are a globally important, terrestrial store of carbon and the UK is recognised as an internationally significant holder of peatlands. Of all the kinds of peatland found in the UK, blanket bogs are dominant, representing 87% of the UK’s peatland area. The UK’s peatlands, in contrast to many other areas of boreal/temperate peat, are relatively accessible and as such have been subject to land-management pressures for many thousands of years. These management pressures have led to the deterioration of many peatlands in the UK, with only 1% of England’s peatlands being considered ‘pristine’ in a Natural England report (Natural England, 2010). Climate change and increasing land-use pressures are predicted to affect all UK peatlands in coming years. As such, studies of the drivers of carbon cycling on UK peatlands are being undertaken in order to help in the construction of models to predict the dynamics of peatland carbon balance. These models will subsequently enable land-managers and policy makers to take informed decisions regarding peatland management and carbon storage. One such model of peatland carbon balance is the Durham Carbon Model, which uses a mass balance between fluxes of carbon in and out of a peatland in order to estimate its net carbon budget. While the Durham Carbon Model is able to deal with the effects of some aspects of land-management on peatland carbon balance, there remain a number of important drivers as yet unaccounted for in the model. As such, the remit of this thesis was to conduct in-situ, experiments in order to provide additional data on peatland carbon cycling with a view to incorporating these drivers into the model. Specifically, this research examines three areas as yet unaccounted for in the Durham Carbon Model: altitude, vegetation and diurnal processes. These factors are considered relative to CO2 flux and, in some cases, soil pore water dissolved organic carbon concentration. Additional experiments were also performed to determine whether empirical models of CO2 flux can be physically interpretable. Results obtained for this thesis suggest that the most important factor in predicting CO2 flux on blanket peat soils is vegetation type and vegetation mediated processes, i.e. photosynthetic controls on respiration. Moreover, the relationship between respiration and photosynthesis was found across a range of other factors and temporal scales. In addition to vegetation, altitude was found to significantly affect CO2 for some vegetation types. Therefore, both of these factors are to be incorporated into the Durham Carbon Model. Experiments suggested that empirical models of CO2 flux can be physically interpretable. The results of the diurnal experiment gave evidence to support the hypothesis that some component of the relationship between photosynthesis and respiration is temporally lagged, perhaps by 3 hours. However, the results were not unequivocal and thus further work is needed to fully examine some of the results presented herein.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: CO2 ; Peat ; Blanket Peat ; Upland ; Carbon ; Soil ; Vegetation ; Altitude ; Carbon Cycle