Peatland vegetation composition and phenology drive the seasonal trajectory of maximum gross primary production

Matthias Peichl*, Michal Gažovič, Ilse Vermeij, Eefje De Goede, Oliver Sonnentag, Juul Limpens, Mats B. Nilsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Gross primary production (GPP) is a key driver of the peatland carbon cycle. Although many studies have explored the apparent GPP under natural light conditions, knowledge of the maximum GPP at light-saturation (GPPmax) and its spatio-temporal variation is limited. This information, however, is crucial since GPPmax essentially constrains the upper boundary for apparent GPP. Using chamber measurements combined with an external light source across experimental plots where vegetation composition was altered through long-term (20-year) nitrogen addition and artificial warming, we could quantify GPPmax in-situ and disentangle its biotic and abiotic controls in a boreal peatland. We found large spatial and temporal variations in the magnitudes of GPPmax which were related to vegetation species composition and phenology rather than abiotic factors. Specifically, we identified vegetation phenology as the main driver of the seasonal GPPmax trajectory. Abiotic anomalies (i.e. in air temperature and water table level), however, caused species-specific divergence between the trajectories of GPPmax and plant development. Our study demonstrates that photosynthetically active biomass constrains the potential peatland photosynthesis while abiotic factors act as secondary modifiers. This further calls for a better representation of species-specific vegetation phenology in process-based peatland models to improve predictions of global change impacts on the peatland carbon cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8012
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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