Paul A. Moore


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iWetland: A Community Science Platform for Monitoring Wetland Water Levels
Taylor D. North, Paul A. Moore, Waverley Birch, Chantel E. Markle, Hope C. A. Freeman, Alex Furukawa, Danielle T. Hudson, Sophie Wilkinson, J. M. Waddington
Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, Volume 8, Issue 1

iWetland is a community science wetland water level monitoring platform developed by the McMaster Ecohydrology Lab and tested from 2016 to 2019 in wetlands located east of Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. The goal of iWetland is to engage community members in wetland science while collecting data to better understand the spatiotemporal variability in water level patterns of wetlands. We installed 24 iWetland water level monitoring stations in popular hiking and camping areas where visitors can text the water level of the wetland to an online database that automatically collates the data. Here, we share our approach for developing the iWetland community science platform and its importance for monitoring all types of wetland ecosystems. From 2016 through 2019, almost 2,000 individuals recorded more than 2,600 water table measurements. The iWetland platform successfully collected accurate water table data for 24 wetlands. We discuss the successes and shortcomings of the community science platform with respect to data collection, community engagement, and participation. We found that forming mutually beneficial partnerships with community groups paired with strong outreach presence were key to the success of this community science platform. Finally, we recommend that those interested in adopting the iWetland platform in their community partner with community groups, recognize participant contributions, identify accessible sites, and host outreach activities.

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Wildfire and degradation accelerate northern peatland carbon release
Sophie Wilkinson, Roxane Andersen, Paul A. Moore, Scott J. Davidson, Gustaf Granath, J. M. Waddington
Nature Climate Change, Volume 13, Issue 5

The northern peatland carbon sink plays a vital role in climate regulation; however, the future of the carbon sink is uncertain, in part, due to the changing interactions of peatlands and wildfire. Here, we use empirical datasets from natural, degraded and restored peatlands in non-permafrost boreal and temperate regions to model net ecosystem exchange and methane fluxes, integrating peatland degradation status, wildfire combustion and post-fire dynamics. We find that wildfire processes reduced carbon uptake in pristine peatlands by 35% and further enhanced emissions from degraded peatlands by 10%. The current small net sink is vulnerable to the interactions of peatland degraded area, burn rate and peat burn severity. Climate change impacts accelerated carbon losses, where increased burn severity and burn rate reduced the carbon sink by 38% and 65%, respectively, by 2100. However, our study demonstrates the potential for active peatland restoration to buffer these impacts. Northern peatland carbon sink plays a vital role in climate regulation. Here, the authors show that wildfire reduced peatland carbon uptake and enhanced emissions from degraded peatlands; climate change impacts accelerated carbon losses where increased burn rate and severity reduced carbon sink.

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Reduced Net CO<sub>2</sub> Uptake During Dry Summers in a Boreal Shield Peatland
R.M. McDonald, Paul A. Moore, Manuel Helbig, J. M. Waddington
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Volume 128, Issue 2

Abstract Peatlands are globally important long‐term sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). However, there is concern that climate change‐mediated drying will reduce gross primary productivity (GPP) and increase ecosystem respiration (ER) making peatlands vulnerable to a weaker carbon sink function and potential net carbon loss. While large and deep peatlands are usually resilient to moderate summer drying, CO 2 exchange in shallow Boreal Shield peatlands is likely more sensitive to drying given the reduced groundwater connectivity and water storage potential. To better understand the carbon cycling responses of Boreal Shield peatlands to meteorological conditions, we examined ecohydrological controls on CO 2 fluxes using the eddy covariance technique at a shallow peatland during the summer season for 5 years, from 2016–2020. We found lower GPP in dry summer years. Mean summer water table depth (WTD) was found to be significantly correlated with summer total net ecosystem CO 2 exchange ( R 2 = 0.78; p value = 0.046) and GPP ( R 2 = 0.83; p value = 0.03), where wet summers with a WT close to the peat surface sequestered more than twice the amount of CO 2 than dry summers. Our findings suggest that shallow Boreal Shield peatland GPP may be sensitive to climate‐mediated drying as they may switch to a net CO 2 source in the summer season when WTDs exceed a critical ecohydrological threshold for a prolonged period of time.


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Peat surface compression reduces smouldering fire potential as a novel fuel treatment for boreal peatlands
Patrick Jeffrey Deane, Sophie Wilkinson, Gregory J. Verkaik, Paul A. Moore, Dave Schroeder, J. M. Waddington
Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Volume 52, Issue 3

The wildfire regime in Canada’s boreal region is changing; extended fire seasons are characterized by more frequent large fires (≥200 ha) burning greater areas of land, whilst climate-mediated drying is increasing the vulnerability of peatlands to deep burning. Proactive management strategies, such as fuel modification treatments, are necessary to reduce fire danger at the wildland-human interface (WHI). Novel approaches to fuel management are especially needed in peatlands where deep smouldering combustion is a challenge to suppression efforts and releases harmful emissions. Here, we integrate surface compression within conventional stand treatments to examine the potential for reducing smouldering of near-surface moss and peat. A linear model (adj. R2=0.62, p=2.2e-16) revealed that ground cover (F(2,101)=60.97, p<0.001) and compression (F(1,101)=56.46, p<0.001) had the greatest effects on smouldering potential, while stand treatment did not have a significant effect (F(3,101)=0.44, p=0.727). On average, compressed Sphagnum and feather moss plots showed 57.1% and 58.7% lower smouldering potential, respectively, when compared to uncompressed analogs. While practical evaluation is warranted to better understand the evolving effectiveness of this strategy, these findings demonstrate that a compression treatment can be successfully incorporated within both managed and unmanaged peatlands to reduce fire danger at the WHI.


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Ecohydrological trade-offs from multiple peatland disturbances: The interactive effects of drainage, harvesting, restoration and wildfire in a southern Ontario bog
Colin P.R. McCarter, Sophie Wilkinson, Paul A. Moore, J. M. Waddington
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 601

• Greater restored moss cover decreased peat burn severity. • Deep vs shallow harvesting depth drove divergent post-fire soil water conditions. • Shallow harvest increased suitable conditions for Sphagnum establishment. • Deep harvest lowers the risk of subsequent peat ignition. • Deep harvest likely to promote longer-term carbon sequestration due to fewer fires. Peatland disturbances can disrupt the ecohydrological functions that sustain net carbon sequestration in peatlands. Anthropogenic disturbances, such as peatland drainage and harvesting, are often followed by peatland restoration that aims to return the carbon sink function. This is typically achieved by raising the water table and re-establishing keystone Sphagnum moss species. However, with an increasingly uncertain climate and intensifying land-use changes, the potential for multiple disturbances (such as co-occurring wildfires, drainage, and harvesting) to disrupt the ecohydrological feedbacks that support peatland function is increasing. Yet, few studies investigate the ecohydrological trade-offs induced by multiple disturbances in peatlands. To elucidate the complexities of multiple disturbances and restoration on Sphagnum re-establishment and wildfire potential, we studied a Deep and Shallow harvested area in a drained and restored peatland in southern Ontario, Canada that experienced a wildfire in 2012. Harvesting depth did not significantly increase the bulk density of the upper 32 cm of exposed peat, but the shallower harvest depth did significantly increase the depth of burn (DOB) due to the more varied remnant topography. The difference in topography of the shallower harvested area increased peat carbon losses (16.5 kg C m −2 ) from the wildfire relative to the deeper harvest area (15.1 kg C m −2 ). The difference in post-fire peat hydrophysical properties of the Deep and Shallow harvest area drove divergent soil water conditions. In the post-burn peat, the establishment of suitable conditions for the regeneration of Sphagnum mosses was more prevalent at the Shallow harvest areas but the higher soil water retention capabilities of the Deep harvest peat lowered the risk of subsequent peat ignition. This study highlights the complex interactions multiple disturbances have on peatland ecohydrology and that we urgently need to understand these interactions to better manage our shared peatland resources in an increasingly uncertain future.


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Seismic Lines in Treed Boreal Peatlands as Analogs for Wildfire Fuel Modification Treatments
Patrick Jeffrey Deane, Sophie Wilkinson, Paul A. Moore, J. M. Waddington
Fire, Volume 3, Issue 2

Across the Boreal, there is an expansive wildland–society interface (WSI), where communities, infrastructure, and industry border natural ecosystems, exposing them to the impacts of natural disturbances, such as wildfire. Treed peatlands have previously received little attention with regard to wildfire management; however, their role in fire spread, and the contribution of peat smouldering to dangerous air pollution, have recently been highlighted. To help develop effective wildfire management techniques in treed peatlands, we use seismic line disturbance as an analog for peatland fuel modification treatments. To delineate below-ground hydrocarbon resources using seismic waves, seismic lines are created by removing above-ground (canopy) fuels using heavy machinery, forming linear disturbances through some treed peatlands. We found significant differences in moisture content and peat bulk density with depth between seismic line and undisturbed plots, where smouldering combustion potential was lower in seismic lines. Sphagnum mosses dominated seismic lines and canopy fuel load was reduced for up to 55 years compared to undisturbed peatlands. Sphagnum mosses had significantly lower smouldering potential than feather mosses (that dominate mature, undisturbed peatlands) in a laboratory drying experiment, suggesting that fuel modification treatments following a strategy based on seismic line analogs would be effective at reducing smouldering potential at the WSI, especially under increasing fire weather.

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Increasing contribution of peatlands to boreal evapotranspiration in a warming climate
Manuel Helbig, J. M. Waddington, Pavel Alekseychik, B.D. Amiro, Mika Aurela, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Peter D. Blanken, Sean K. Carey, Jiquan Chen, Jinshu Chi, Ankur R. Desai, Allison L. Dunn, Eugénie Euskirchen, Lawrence B. Flanagan, Inke Forbrich, Thomas Friborg, Achim Grelle, Silvie Harder, Michal Heliasz, Elyn Humphreys, Hiroki Ikawa, Pierre‐Érik Isabelle, Hiroyasu Iwata, Rachhpal S. Jassal, Mika Korkiakoski, Juliya Kurbatova, Lars Kutzbach, Anders Lindroth, Mikaell Ottosson Löfvenius, Annalea Lohila, Ivan Mammarella, Philip Marsh, Trofim C. Maximov, Joe R. Melton, Paul A. Moore, Daniel F. Nadeau, Erin M. Nicholls, Mats Nilsson, Takeshi Ohta, Matthias Peichl, Richard M. Petrone, Roman E. Petrov, Anatoly Prokushkin, William L. Quinton, David E. Reed, Nigel T. Roulet, Benjamin R. K. Runkle, Oliver Sonnentag, I. B. Strachan, Pierre Taillardat, Eeva‐Stiina Tuittila, Juha‐Pekka Tuovinen, J. Turner, Masahito Ueyama, Andrej Varlagin, Martin Wilmking, Steven C. Wofsy, Vyacheslav Zyrianov
Nature Climate Change, Volume 10, Issue 6

The response of evapotranspiration (ET) to warming is of critical importance to the water and carbon cycle of the boreal biome, a mosaic of land cover types dominated by forests and peatlands. The effect of warming-induced vapour pressure deficit (VPD) increases on boreal ET remains poorly understood because peatlands are not specifically represented as plant functional types in Earth system models. Here we show that peatland ET increases more than forest ET with increasing VPD using observations from 95 eddy covariance tower sites. At high VPD of more than 2 kPa, peatland ET exceeds forest ET by up to 30%. Future (2091–2100) mid-growing season peatland ET is estimated to exceed forest ET by over 20% in about one-third of the boreal biome for RCP4.5 and about two-thirds for RCP8.5. Peatland-specific ET responses to VPD should therefore be included in Earth system models to avoid biases in water and carbon cycle projections.

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Shallow peat is most vulnerable to high peat burn severity during wildfire
Sophie Wilkinson, Alex M. Tekatch, Chantel E. Markle, Paul A. Moore, J. M. Waddington
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 15, Issue 10

Abstract Peatlands typically act as carbon sinks, however, increasing wildfire severity and annual area burned may challenge this carbon sink status. Whilst most peat resistance to wildfire and drought research is based on deep peatlands that rarely lose their water table below the peat profile, shallow peatlands and peat deposits may be most vulnerable to high peat burn severity and extensive carbon loss. To examine the role of pre-fire peat depth on peat burn severity, we measured the depth of burn (DOB) in peat of varying depths (0.1–1.6 m) within a rock barrens landscape. We found that DOB (0–0.4 m) decreased with increasing pre-fire peat depth, and that there was a strong correlation between the percent of the profile that burned and pre-fire peat depth. Breakpoint analysis indicates a threshold depth of 0.66 m where deeper peat deposits experienced little impact of wildfire, whereas shallower peat typically experienced high peat burn severity (median percent burned = 2.2 and 65.1, respectively). This threshold also corresponded to the loss of the water table in some nearby unburned peatlands, where water table drawdown rates were greater in shallower peat. We suggest that peat depth may control peat burn severity through feedbacks that regulate water table drawdown. As such, we argue that the identification of a critical peat depth threshold could have important implications for wildfire management and peatland restoration aiming to protect vulnerable carbon stores.

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The biophysical climate mitigation potential of boreal peatlands during the growing season
Manuel Helbig, J. M. Waddington, Pavel Alekseychik, B.D. Amiro, Mika Aurela, Alan G. Barr, T. Andrew Black, Sean K. Carey, Jiquan Chen, Jinshu Chi, Ankur R. Desai, Allison L. Dunn, Eugénie Euskirchen, Lawrence B. Flanagan, Thomas Friborg, Michelle Garneau, Achim Grelle, Silvie Harder, Michal Heliasz, Elyn Humphreys, Hiroki Ikawa, Pierre‐Érik Isabelle, Hiroyasu Iwata, Rachhpal S. Jassal, Mika Korkiakoski, Juliya Kurbatova, Lars Kutzbach, Е. Д. Лапшина, Anders Lindroth, Mikaell Ottosson Löfvenius, Annalea Lohila, Ivan Mammarella, Philip Marsh, Paul A. Moore, Trofim C. Maximov, Daniel F. Nadeau, Erin M. Nicholls, Mats Nilsson, Takeshi Ohta, Matthias Peichl, Richard M. Petrone, Anatoly Prokushkin, William L. Quinton, Nigel T. Roulet, Benjamin R. K. Runkle, Oliver Sonnentag, I. B. Strachan, Pierre Taillardat, Eeva‐Stiina Tuittila, Juha‐Pekka Tuovinen, J. Turner, Masahito Ueyama, Andrej Varlagin, Timo Vesala, Martin Wilmking, Vyacheslav Zyrianov, Christopher Schulze
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 15, Issue 10

Peatlands and forests cover large areas of the boreal biome and are critical for global climate regulation. They also regulate regional climate through heat and water vapour exchange with the atmosphere. Understanding how land-atmosphere interactions in peatlands differ from forests may therefore be crucial for modelling boreal climate system dynamics and for assessing climate benefits of peatland conservation and restoration. To assess the biophysical impacts of peatlands and forests on peak growing season air temperature and humidity, we analysed surface energy fluxes and albedo from 35 peatlands and 37 evergreen needleleaf forests - the dominant boreal forest type - and simulated air temperature and vapour pressure deficit (VPD) over hypothetical homogeneous peatland and forest landscapes. We ran an evapotranspiration model using land surface parameters derived from energy flux observations and coupled an analytical solution for the surface energy balance to an atmospheric boundary layer (ABL) model. We found that peatlands, compared to forests, are characterized by higher growing season albedo, lower aerodynamic conductance, and higher surface conductance for an equivalent VPD. This combination of peatland surface properties results in a ∼20% decrease in afternoon ABL height, a cooling (from 1.7 to 2.5 °C) in afternoon air temperatures, and a decrease in afternoon VPD (from 0.4 to 0.7 kPa) for peatland landscapes compared to forest landscapes. These biophysical climate impacts of peatlands are most pronounced at lower latitudes (∼45°N) and decrease toward the northern limit of the boreal biome (∼70°N). Thus, boreal peatlands have the potential to mitigate the effect of regional climate warming during the growing season. The biophysical climate mitigation potential of peatlands needs to be accounted for when projecting the future climate of the boreal biome, when assessing the climate benefits of conserving pristine boreal peatlands, and when restoring peatlands that have experienced peatland drainage and mining. © 2020 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd. (Less)

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Climate‐change refugia in boreal North America: what, where, and for how long?
Diana Stralberg, Dominique Arseneault, Jennifer L. Baltzer, Quinn E. Barber, Erin M. Bayne, Yan Boulanger, Clifford M. Brown, Hilary A. Cooke, K. J. Devito, Jason E. Edwards, César A. Estevo, Nadele Flynn, Lee E. Frelich, Edward H. Hogg, Mark Johnston, Travis Logan, Steven M. Matsuoka, Paul A. Moore, Toni Lyn Morelli, Jacques Morissette, Elizabeth A. Nelson, Hedvig K. Nenzén, Scott E. Nielsen, Marc André Parisien, John H. Pedlar, David T. Price, Fiona K. A. Schmiegelow, Stuart M. Slattery, Oliver Sonnentag, Daniel K. Thompson, Ellen Whitman
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Volume 18, Issue 5

H latitude regions around the world are experiencing particularly rapid climate change. These regions include the 625 million ha North American boreal region, which contains 16% of the world’s forests and plays a major role in the global carbon cycle (Brandt et al. 2013). Boreal ecosystems are particularly susceptible to rapid climatedriven vegetation change initiated by standreplacing natural disturbances (notably fires), which have increased in number, extent, and frequency (Kasischke and Turetsky 2006; Hanes et al. 2018) and are expected to continue under future climate change (Boulanger et al. 2014). Such disturbances will increasingly complicate species persistence, and it will therefore be critical to identify locations of possible climatechange refugia (areas “relatively buffered from contemporary climate change”) (Morelli et al. 2016). These “slow lanes” for biodiversity will be especially important for conservation and management of boreal species and ecosystems (Morelli et al. 2020). Practically speaking, the refugia concept can translate into specific sites or regions that are expected to be more resistant to the influence of climate change than other areas (“in situ refugia”; Ashcroft 2010). Refugia may also encompass sites or regions to which species may more readily retreat as climate conditions change (“ex situ refugia”; Ashcroft 2010; Keppel et al. 2012), as well as temporary “stepping stones” (Hannah et al. 2014) linking current and future habitats. In addition to areas that are climatically buffered, fire refugia – “places that are disturbed less frequently or less severely by wildfire” (Krawchuk et al. 2016) – may also play key roles in promoting ecosystem persistence under changing conditions (Meddens et al. 2018). Previous examinations of climatechange refugia have primarily emphasized external, terrainmediated mechanisms. Factors such as topographic shading and temperature inverClimatechange refugia in boreal North America: what, where, and for how long?


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Postfire Soil Carbon Accumulation Does Not Recover Boreal Peatland Combustion Loss in Some Hydrogeological Settings
Rebekah Ingram, Paul A. Moore, Sophie Wilkinson, Richard M. Petrone, J. M. Waddington
Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, Volume 124, Issue 4

Deep peat burning at the interface between subhumid Boreal Plains (BP) peatlands and forestlands (margin ecotones) in some hydrogeological settings has brought into question the long‐term stability of these peatlands under current and future predicted climate. Small peatlands located at midtopographic positions on coarse sediments have been identified as hot spots for severe burning, as these peatland margins are not regularly connected to regional groundwater flow. The ability of these peatland systems to recover carbon lost from both the interior and margin within the fire return interval, however, has not yet been investigated. Here we examine peatland soil carbon accumulation along a chronosequence of time since fire for 26 BP ombrotrophic bogs located across a range of hydrogeological settings. Soil organic carbon accumulation following wildfire does not appear to be influenced by hydrogeological setting; however, the ability of a peatland to recover the quantity of carbon lost within the fire return interval is dependent on the amount of carbon that was released through smoldering, which is influenced by hydrogeological setting for peatland margins. Based on published measurements of organic soil carbon loss during wildfire and our soil carbon accumulation rates, we suggest that peatlands located at topographic lows on coarse‐grained glaciofluvial outwash sediments or on low‐relief, fine‐grained sediment deposits from glaciolacustrine or subglacial paleoenvironments are currently resilient to wildfire on the BP landscape. Peatlands that experience severe smoldering at the margins, such as ephemerally perched systems on glaciofluvial outwash sediments, will likely undergo permanent loss of legacy carbon stores.

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Assessing Drivers of Cross-Scale Variability in Peat Smoldering Combustion Vulnerability in Forested Boreal Peatlands
Sophie Wilkinson, Paul A. Moore, J. M. Waddington
Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, Volume 2

Wildfire represents the largest areal disturbance of forested boreal peatlands and the spatial variability in the severity of these peat fires is both a leading source of uncertainty in boreal wildfire carbon emissions and a major challenge for regional wildfire management. Peat smouldering can emit large quantities of carbon and smoke to the atmosphere, and therefore can contribute to hazardous air quality. The wildland-industry interface and wildland-urban interface are both extensive across the sub-humid boreal plains (BP) ecozone where one-third of the area is covered by peatlands. As such, there is a growing research need to identify drivers of variability in smouldering combustion. This study uses hydrophysical peat properties to assess the drivers of cross-scale variability in peat smouldering combustion vulnerability in forested peatlands across the BP. Using a space-for-time chronosequence across the 120-year fire return interval and three main hydrogeological settings, and by incorporating hummock, hollow and margin locations, cross-scale variability is studied. We find that, based on peat properties such as specific yield (Sy) and gravimetric water content, forested peatland margins represent areas of high peat smouldering vulnerability, and that this is exacerbated with an increasing time-since-fire (stand-age). Although increasing Sy with time-since-fire in peatland middles may buffer water table drawdown, when accounting for increases in canopy fuel load, transpiration, and feather moss dominance forested peatland middles also become more vulnerable to smouldering combustion with time-since-fire. Moreover, the interaction of peatland margins with coarse- and heterogeneous-grained hydrogeological settings leads to lower Sy and higher density margin peat than in fine-grained settings, further increasing smouldering vulnerability. We estimate that forested peatland margins are vulnerable to combustion throughout their entire profile i.e. burn-out, under moderate-high water deficits in the BP. Furthermore, we identify peatland margin: total area ratio as a driver of smouldering vulnerability where small peatlands that are periodically disconnected from regional groundwater systems are the most vulnerable to high total peat carbon loss. We suggest that these drivers of cross-scale variability should be incorporated into peatland and wildfire management strategies, especially in areas near the wildland-industry and wildland-urban interface.

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Threshold peat burn severity breaks evaporation‐limiting feedback
Sophie Wilkinson, Gregory J. Verkaik, Paul A. Moore, J. M. Waddington
Ecohydrology, Volume 13, Issue 1

A suite of autogenic ecohydrological feedbacks and moss traits are important for protecting vast peatland carbon stocks following wildfire disturbance. Here, we examine how peat burn severity and water table depth (WTD) affect the strength of one such feedback—the hydrophobicity–evaporation feedback (HEF). The HEF is an evaporation‐limiting feedback known to minimize water loss following wildfire. The peatland surface becomes hydrophobic creating an evaporative cap and thereby reducing post‐fire evaporation; however, recent studies hypothesize that this is dependent on peat burn severity. To test this hypothesis, we studied plots along a peat burn severity gradient in a partially drained black spruce peatland that burned during the 2016 Fort McMurray Horse River wildfire. Evaporation rates were significantly lower in plots where hydrophobicity was present. Hydrophobicity was lowest in the severely burned area, and the average instantaneous evaporation rate (2.75 mm day−1) was significantly higher than moderately and typical‐lightly burned areas (0.82 and 1.64 mm day−1, respectively). Based on lab results, increasing WTD affected hydrophobicity within lightly burned (singed) feather moss samples but not in heavily burned feather moss, showing the importance of post‐fire ground cover and in situ WTD. Our results provide evidence of a burn severity threshold where increased depth of burn removes the feather moss evaporative cap and causes the HEF to break down. We argue that this threshold has important implications for boreal peatlands, which are predicted to undergo climate‐mediated pre‐fire drying and increasing burn severities, potentially leading to further carbon losses due to enhanced post‐fire drying and concomitant decomposition.

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Assessing the peatland hummock–hollow classification framework using high-resolution elevation models: implications for appropriate complexity ecosystem modeling
Paul A. Moore, Max Lukenbach, Dan K. Thompson, Nicholas Kettridge, Gustaf Granath, J. M. Waddington
Biogeosciences, Volume 16, Issue 18

Abstract. The hummock–hollow classification framework used to categorize peatland ecosystem microtopography is pervasive throughout peatland experimental designs and current peatland ecosystem modeling approaches. However, identifying what constitutes a representative hummock–hollow pair within a site and characterizing hummock–hollow variability within or between peatlands remains largely unassessed. Using structure from motion (SfM), high-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) of hummock–hollow microtopography were used to (1) examine how much area needs to be sampled to characterize site-level microtopographic variation; and (2) examine the potential role of microtopographic shape/structure on biogeochemical fluxes using plot-level data from nine northern peatlands. To capture 95 % of site-level microtopographic variability, on average, an aggregate sampling area of 32 m2 composed of 10 randomly located plots was required. Both site- (i.e. transect data) and plot-level (i.e. SfM-derived DEM) results show that microtopographic variability can be described as a fractal at the submeter scale, where contributions to total variance are very small below a 0.5 m length scale. Microtopography at the plot level was often found to be non-bimodal, as assessed using a Gaussian mixture model (GMM). Our findings suggest that the non-bimodal distribution of microtopography at the plot level may result in an undersampling of intermediate topographic positions. Extended to the modeling domain, an underrepresentation of intermediate microtopographic positions is shown to lead to potentially large flux biases over a wide range of water table positions for ecosystem processes which are non-linearly related to water and energy availability at the moss surface. Moreover, our simple modeling results suggest that much of the bias can be eliminated by representing microtopography with several classes rather than the traditional two (i.e. hummock/hollow). A range of tools examined herein can be used to easily parameterize peatland models, from GMMs used as simple transfer functions to spatially explicit fractal landscapes based on simple power-law relations between microtopographic variability and scale.


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A hydrogeological landscape framework to identify peatland wildfire smouldering hot spots
Kelly Hokanson, Paul A. Moore, Max Lukenbach, K. J. Devito, Nicholas Kettridge, R. M. Petrone, Carl Mendoza, J. M. Waddington
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 4

Northern peatlands are important global carbon stores, but there is concern that these boreal peat reserves are at risk due to increased fire frequency and severity as predicted by climate change models. In a subhumid climate, hydrogeological position is an important control on peatland hydrology and wildfire vulnerability. Consequently, we hypothesized that in a coarse‐textured glaciofluvial outwash, isolated peatlands lacking the moderating effect of large‐scale groundwater flow would have greater water table (WT) variability and would also be more vulnerable to deep WT drawdown and wildfire during dry climate cycles. A holistic approach was taken to evaluate 3 well‐accepted factors that are associated with smouldering in boreal peatlands: hollow microform coverage, peatland margin morphometry, and gravimetric water content. Using a combination of field measurements (bulk density, humification, WT position, hummock–hollow distribution, and margin width) and modelling (1‐D vertical unsaturated flow coupled with a simple peat–fuel energy balance equation), we assessed the vulnerability of peat to smouldering. We found that a peatland in the regionally intermediate topographic position is the most vulnerable to smouldering due to the interaction of variable connectivity to large‐scale groundwater flow and the absence of mineral stratigraphy for limiting WT declines during dry conditions. Our findings represent a novel assessment framework and tool for fire managers by providing a priori knowledge of potential peat smouldering hot spot locations in the landscape to efficiently allocate resources and reduce emergency response time to smouldering events.

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Delineating boreal plains bog margin ecotones across hydrogeological settings for wildfire risk management
Kristyn M. Mayner, Paul A. Moore, Sophie Wilkinson, Richard M. Petrone, J. M. Waddington
Wetlands Ecology and Management, Volume 26, Issue 6

Canada’s Boreal Plains peatland vegetation species assemblages are characterized by their functional ecosystem roles and feedbacks, which are important for carbon and water storage in a sub-humid climate. The vegetation communities at the peatland-upland interface, or the peatland margin ecotone, have not been extensively delineated or characterized as a distinct ecotone. Because these ecotones constitute a smouldering “hotspot” during wildfire, with carbon loss from these margins accounting for 50–90% of total peatland carbon loss, their delineation is critical. Post-fire, areas of severe peat smouldering have previously been shown to undergo shifts in vegetation community composition, resulting in a loss of key peatland ecohydrological functions. The aim of this study was to delineate Boreal Plains peatland margin ecotones and assess their prevalence across the landscape. Using split moving window analysis on vegetation transect data from a chronosequence of study sites, the margin ecotones were delineated at sites having different times since fire. No significant differences were identified in margin width over time or margin peat depths across hydrogeological settings. However, with peat depths of up to 2.46 m in small peatlands characteristic of moraine and glaciofluvial deposits, vulnerable margin peat has been demonstrated to represent a significant carbon store. Fire managers employing peatland fuel treatments for wildfire abatement and community protection should consider these confined peatlands more carefully to mitigate catastrophic carbon losses. Further, we suggest that a greater understanding is needed of the roles of peatland margin ecotones in sustaining peatland autogenic feedback mechanisms that promote paludification and recovery following wildfire.

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The effects of black spruce fuel management on surface fuel condition and peat burn severity in an experimental fire
Sophie Wilkinson, Paul A. Moore, Dan K. Thompson, B. M. Wotton, Steven Hvenegaard, Dave Schroeder, J. M. Waddington
Canadian Journal of Forest Research, Volume 48, Issue 12

In the boreal plains ecozone, black spruce (Picea mariana (Mill.) Britton, Sterns & Poggenb.) peatlands can represent large parts of the expanding wildland–urban interface (WUI) and wildland–indust...

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Did enhanced afforestation cause high severity peat burn in the Fort McMurray Horse River wildfire?
Sophie Wilkinson, Paul A. Moore, Mike D. Flannigan, B. M. Wotton, J. M. Waddington
Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Issue 1

Climate change mediated drying of boreal peatlands is expected to enhance peatland afforestation and wildfire vulnerability. The water table depth–afforestation feedback represents a positive feedback that can enhance peat drying and consolidation and thereby increase peat burn severity; exacerbating the challenges and costs of wildfire suppression efforts and potentially shifting the peatland to a persistent source of atmospheric carbon. To address this wildfire management challenge, we examined burn severity across a gradient of drying in a black spruce dominated peatland that was partially drained in 1975−1980 and burned in the 2016 Fort McMurray Horse River wildfire. We found that post-drainage black spruce annual ring width increased substantially with intense drainage. Average (±SD) basal diameter was 2.6 ± 1.2 cm, 3.2 ± 2.0 cm and 7.9 ± 4.7 cm in undrained (UD), moderately drained (MD) and heavily drained (HD) treatments, respectively. Depth of burn was significantly different between treatments (p < 0.001) and averaged (±SD) 2.5 ± 3.5 cm, 6.4 ± 5.0 cm and 36.9 ± 29.6 cm for the UD, MD and HD treatments, respectively. The high burn severity in the HD treatment included 38% of the treatment that experienced combustion of the entire peat profile, and we estimate that overall 51% of the HD pre-burn peat carbon stock was lost. We argue that the HD treatment surpassed an ecohydrological tipping point to high severity peat burn that may be identified using black spruce stand characteristics in boreal plains bogs. While further studies are needed, we believe that quantifying this threshold will aid in developing effective adaptive management techniques and protecting boreal peatland carbon stocks.


DOI bib
Peatland water repellency: Importance of soil water content, moss species, and burn severity
Paul A. Moore, Max Lukenbach, Nicholas Kettridge, Richard M. Petrone, K. J. Devito, J. M. Waddington
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 554

Abstract Wildfire is the largest disturbance affecting peatlands, with northern peat reserves expected to become more vulnerable to wildfire as climate change enhances the length and severity of the fire season. Recent research suggests that high water table positions after wildfire are critical to limit atmospheric carbon losses and enable the re-establishment of keystone peatland mosses (i.e. Sphagnum). Post-fire recovery of the moss surface in Sphagnum-feathermoss peatlands, however, has been shown to be limited where moss type and burn severity interact to result in a water repellent surface. While in situ measurements of moss water repellency in peatlands have been shown to be greater for feathermoss in both a burned and unburned state in comparison to Sphagnum moss, it is difficult to separate the effect of water content from species. Consequently, we carried out a laboratory based drying experiment where we compared the water repellency of two dominant peatland moss species, Sphagnum and feathermoss, for several burn severity classes including unburned samples. The results suggest that water repellency in moss is primarily controlled by water content, where a sharp threshold exists at gravimetric water contents (GWC) lower than ∼1.4 g g−1. While GWC is shown to be a strong predictor of water repellency, the effect is enhanced by burning. Based on soil water retention curves, we suggest that it is highly unlikely that Sphagnum will exhibit strong hydrophobic conditions under field conditions.