Intact, functioning peatlands are believed to sequester more atmospheric carbon per hectare than other habitats, so playing a vital role in combating anthropogenic climate change. However, all over the world peatlands have been damaged by human activities with consequences for their carbon balance. Peatlands drained for peat extraction emit large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the newly-exposed aerobic peat. When these same peatlands undergo restoration and re-wetting other researchers found reduced CO2 emission from aerobic microbial respiration, but increased methane (CH4) production through methanogenic microbial respiration. Re-establishment of peat-forming Sphagnum mosses is thought to be vital for returning normal function and carbon sequestration to a damaged peatland, and micro-propagated Sphagnum moss products, developed by our industrial partner Micropropagation Services Ltd, are being used to provide a rapid cover of Sphagnum where source material is scarce. One of these, known as SoluMoss™ contains 11 species of Sphagnum in a nutrient gel which is sprayed onto the peat surface. This study aims to discover how this newly propagated Sphagnum moss affects the CO2 and CH4 fluxes on re-wetted peatlands. Regular gas measurements are being made using field chambers and a portable greenhouse gas analyser (Los Gatos Research, California) which will provide novel data to gain understanding and evidence for the impact on the carbon balance of peatland re-wetting and Sphagnum restoration. A subsidiary aim of this project is to study growth, competition and photosynthesis of individual species within the SoluMoss™ mix. This will inform development of micro-propagated Sphagnum multi-species products in order to maximize production and ecological benefits.
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