Richard M. Petrone


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Effects of microforms on the evaporation of peat‐bryophyte‐litter column in a montane peatland in Canadian Rocky Mountain
Yi Wang, Richard M. Petrone
Ecohydrology, Volume 16, Issue 3

Peatland microtopography contains hummocks (local high points) and hollows (local low points). Little is known about how the evaporation of peat (P), peat-bryophyte (BP), peat-litter (LP) and peat-bryophyte-litter (LBP) columns varies with peatland microforms. That is, whether there are fine-scale variations in peatland evaporation, and if they are critical when being upscaled to the entire peatland ecosystem is yet to be answered. This study found that evaporation was significantly affected by cover type (P, BP, LP or LBP) and the interaction effect of the cover type and microform, based on the field evaporation experiments in a montane peatland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, during the growing season of 2021. Mean daily evaporation of P-Hummock and P-Hollow is 14.16 and 11.76 g day−1, respectively; BP-Hummock and BP-Hollow is 9.57 and 14.38 g day−1, respectively; LBP-Hummock and LBP-Hollow is 9.44 and 9.91 g day−1, respectively; and evaporation of LP-Hummock and LP-Hollow is 5.68 and 7.64 g day−1, respectively. Peatland microform indirectly affected evaporation through interactions with cover type, modifying the vertical profile of soil temperature and changing key environmental drivers of evaporation. Moreover, the ability of two widely used models in modelling the spatial variation of peatland evaporation was also tested. It was found that Penman–Monteith (P–M) model and the bryophyte layer model in the Atmosphere-Plant Exchange Simulator (APES) were able to yield satisfactory results based on field measurements of soil temperature and soil moisture. This study supports developing more practical evaluation tools on the hydrological state of peatland ecosystems.

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Developing a tile drainage module for Cold Regions Hydrological Model: Lessons from a farm in Southern Ontario, Canada
Mazda Kompani-Zare, Diogo Costa, Merrin L. Macrae, John W. Pomeroy, Richard M. Petrone

Abstract. Systematic tile drainage is used extensively in agricultural lands to remove excess water and improve crop growth; however, tiles can also transfer nutrients from farmlands to downstream surface water bodies, leading to water quality problems. There is a need to simulate the hydrological behaviour of tile drains to understand the impacts of climate or land management change on agricultural runoff. The Cold Regions Hydrological Model (CRHM) is a physically based, modular modelling system that enables the creation of comprehensive models appropriate for cold regions by including a full suite of winter, spring, and summer season processes and coupling these together via mass and energy balances. A new tile drainage module was developed for CRHM to account for this process in tile-drained landscapes that are increasingly common in cultivated basins of the Great Lakes and northern Prairies regions of North America. A robust multi-variable, multi-criteria model performance evaluation strategy was deployed to examine the ability of the module with CRHM to capture tile discharge under both winter and summer conditions. Results showed that soil moisture is largely regulated by tile flow and lateral flow from adjacent fields. The explicit representation of capillary rise for moisture interactions between the rooting zone and groundwater greatly improved model simulations, demonstrating its significance in the hydrology of tile drains in loam soils. Water level patterns revealed a bimodal behaviour that depended on the positioning of the capillary fringe relative to the tile. A novel aspect of this module is the use of field capacity and its corresponding pressure head to provide an estimate of drainable water and thickness of the capillary fringe, rather than a detailed soil retention curve that may not always be available. Understanding the bimodal nature of soil water levels provides better insight into the significance of dynamic water exchange between soil layers below drains to improve tile drainage representation in models.


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Vegetation‐related influences on carbon and water dynamics of two temperate forage crops
Kevin De Haan, Myroslava Khomik, Richard M. Petrone
Agronomy Journal, Volume 114, Issue 3

Improving understanding of how water use efficiency (WUE), evapotranspiration (ET), and gross primary productivity (GPP) (CO2 exchange) vary across agricultural systems can help farmers better prepare for an uncertain future due to climate change by assessing water requirements for a crop as a function of current environmental conditions. This study: (a) quantified field-scale plant–water–carbon dynamics for silage maize (Zea mays L.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) crops – two dominant forage crops in southern Ontario, Canada; and (b) identified differences in plant carbon–water dynamics between these two crops, relating these differences to vegetation-driven ecosystem controls. Climate and soil properties were similar between the two study sites, and water availability was not limiting, suggesting that the overall temporal differences in carbon–water relations were driven by vegetation differences, mainly crop choice and management practices. Alfalfa had greater seasonal GPP, ET, and WUE than maize, due to a longer growing season. Differences in daily WUE between maize and alfalfa were driven by differences in GPP rather than ET. Multiple harvests reduced leaf-aging effects and promoted periods of rapid growth in alfalfa. In contrast, late seedling emergence and self-shading reduced GPP in maize. Under a warmer future climate, crop selection (i.e., perennial vs. annual), harvest regimes, and changes in growing season length should be considered when trying to manage for increased WUE. However, longer duration studies to validate these results are required to better address the impacts of climatic variability—especially antecedent conditions—to better inform future crop choices within a climate change context.

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Analysis of growing season carbon and water fluxes of a subalpine wetland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains: Implications of shade on ecosystem water use efficiency
Dylan M. Hrach, A. Green, Myroslava Khomik, Richard M. Petrone
Hydrological Processes, Volume 36, Issue 1

Mountain regions are an important regulator in the global water cycle through their disproportionate water contribution. Often referred to as the “Water Towers of the World”, mountains contribute 40%–60% of the world's annual surface flow. Shade is a common feature in mountains, where complex terrain cycles land surfaces in and out of shadows over daily and seasonal scales, which can impact water use. This study investigated the turbulent water and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes during the snow‐free period in a subalpine wetland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, from 7 June to 10 September 2018. Shading had a significant and substantial effect on water and CO2 fluxes at our site. When considering data from the entire study period, each hourly increase of shade per day reduced evapotranspiration (ET) and gross primary production (GPP) by 0.42 mm and 0.77 g C m−2, equivalent to 17% and 15% per day, respectively. However, the variability in shading changed throughout the study, it was stable to start and increased towards the end. Only during the peak growing season, the site experienced days with both stable and increasing shade. During this time, we found that shade, caused by the local complex terrain, reduced ET and potentially increased GPP, likely due to enhanced diffuse radiation. The overall result was greater water use efficiency during periods of increased shading in the peak growing season. These findings suggest that shaded subalpine wetlands can store large volumes of water for late season runoff and are productive through short growing seasons.

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Quantifying relative contributions of source waters from a subalpine wetland to downstream water bodies
Julia M. Hathaway, Cherie J. Westbrook, Rebecca C. Rooney, Richard M. Petrone, Lindsey E. Langs
Hydrological Processes, Volume 36, Issue 9

Subalpine regions of the Canadian Rocky Mountains are expected to experience continued changes in hydrometeorological processes due to anthropogenically mediated climate warming. As a result, fresh water supplies are at risk as snowmelt periods occur earlier in the year, and glaciers contribute less annual meltwater, resulting in longer growing seasons and greater reliance on rainfall to generate runoff. In such environments, wetlands are potentially important components that control runoff processes, but due to their location and harsh climates their hydrology is not well studied. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with MixSIAR, a Bayesian mixing model, to understand relative source water contributions and mixing within Burstall Wetland, a subalpine wetland (1900 m a.s.l.), and the larger Burstall Valley. These results were combined with climate data from the Burstall Valley to understand hydrometeorological controls on Burstall Wetland source water dynamics over spatiotemporal timescales. Our results show that the seasonal isotopic patterns within Burstall Wetland reflect greater reliance on snowmelt in spring and rainfall in the peak and post-growing season periods. We found a substantial degree of mixing between precipitation (rain and snow) and stored waters in the landscape, especially during the pre-growing season. These findings suggest that longer growing seasons in subalpine snow-dominated landscapes put wetlands at risk of significant water loss and increased evaporation rates potentially leading to periods of reduced runoff during the peak- growing season and in extreme cases, wetland dry out.

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Using Stable Water Isotopes to Analyze Spatiotemporal Variability and Hydrometeorological Forcing in Mountain Valley Wetlands
Julia M. Hathaway, Richard M. Petrone, Cherie J. Westbrook, Rebecca C. Rooney, Lindsey E. Langs
Water, Volume 14, Issue 11

Wetlands in Montane and Subalpine Subregions are increasingly recognized as important hydrologic features that support ecosystem function. However, it is currently not clear how climate trends will impact wetland hydrological processes (e.g., evaporative fluxes) across spatiotemporal scales. Therefore, identifying the factors that influence wetland hydrologic response to climate change is an important step in understanding the sensitivity of these ecosystems to environmental change. We used stable water isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen (δ2H and δ18O), coupled with climate data, to determine the spatiotemporal variability in isotopic signatures of wetland source waters and understand the influence of evaporative fluxes on wetlands in the Kananaskis Valley. Our results show that the primary runoff generation mechanism changes throughout the growing season resulting in considerable mixing in wetland surface waters. We found that evaporative fluxes increased with decreasing elevation and that isotopic values became further removed from meteoric water lines during the late peak- and into the post-growing seasons. These findings suggest that a change in the water balance in favor of enhanced evaporation (due to a warmer and longer summer season than present) will not only lead to greater water loss from the wetlands themselves but may also reduce the water inputs from their catchments.

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Assessment of effective LAI and water use efficiency using Eddy Covariance data
Mazda Kompani-Zare, Richard M. Petrone, Merrin L. Macrae, Kevin De Haan, Myroslava Khomik
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 802

Globally, maize ( Zea mays , a C4-plant) and alfalfa ( Medicago sativa , a C3-plant) are common and economically important crops. Predicting the response of their water use efficiency, WUE , to changing hydrologic and climatic conditions is vital in helping farmers adapt to a changing climate. In this study, we assessed the effective leaf area index ( eLAI - the leaf area most involved in CO 2 and H 2 O exchange) and stomatal conductance in canopy scale in maize and alfalfa fields. In the process we used a theoretically-based photosynthesis C3-C4 model (C3C4PM) and carbon and water vapour fluxes measured by Eddy Covariance towers at our study sites. We found that in our study sites the eLAI was in the range of 25–32% of the observed total LAI in these crops. WUE s were in range of 8–9 mmol/mol. C3C4PM can be used in predictions of stomatal conductance and eLAI responses in C3 and C4 agricultural crops to elevated CO 2 concentration and changes in precipitation and temperature under future climate scenarios. • ~25 (maize) & 32% (alfalfa) of the observed crop LAI was involved in photosynthesis. • Extinction coefficient for beam radiation was 1.08 (maize) and 0.84 (alfalfa). • Canopy stomatal conductance, SC , was ~0.13 (maize) and ~0.15 (alfalfa). • Effective LAI and canopy SC can be evaluated by Eddy Covariance records.


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Assessment of Different Water Use Efficiency Calculations for Dominant Forage Crops in the Great Lakes Basin
Kevin De Haan, Myroslava Khomik, Adam Green, Warren Helgason, Merrin L. Macrae, Mazda Kompani-Zare, Richard M. Petrone
Agriculture, Volume 11, Issue 8

Water use efficiency (WUE) can be calculated using a range of methods differing in carbon uptake and water use variable selection. Consequently, inconsistencies arise between WUE calculations due to complex physical and physiological interactions. The purpose of this study was to quantify and compare WUE estimates (harvest or flux-based) for alfalfa (C3 plant) and maize (C4 plant) and determine effects of input variables, plant physiology and farming practices on estimates. Four WUE calculations were investigated: two “harvest-based” methods, using above ground carbon content and either precipitation or evapotranspiration (ET), and two “flux-based” methods, using gross primary productivity (GPP) and either ET or transpiration. WUE estimates differed based on method used at both half-hourly and seasonal scales. Input variables used in calculations affected WUE estimates, and plant physiology led to different responses in carbon assimilation and water use variables. WUE estimates were also impacted by different plant physiological responses and processing methods, even when the same carbon assimilation and water use variables were considered. This study highlights a need to develop a metric of measuring cropland carbon-water coupling that accounts for all water use components, plant carbon responses, and biomass production.

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Subalpine forest water use behaviour and evapotranspiration during two hydrologically contrasting growing seasons in the Canadian Rockies
Lindsey E. Langs, Richard M. Petrone, John W. Pomeroy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 35, Issue 5

Hydrological processes in mountain headwater basins are changing as climate and vegetation change. Interactions between hydrological processes and subalpine forest ecological function are important to mountain water supplies due to their control on evapotranspiration (ET). Improved understanding of the sensitivity of these interactions to seasonal and interannual changes in snowmelt and summer rainfall is needed as these interactions can impact forest growth, succession, health, and susceptibility to wildfire. To better understand this sensitivity, this research examined ET for a sub-alpine forest in the Canadian Rockies over two contrasting growing seasons and quantified the contribution of transpiration (T) from the younger tree population to overall stand ET. The younger population was focused on to permit examination of trees that have grown under the effect of recent climate change and will contribute to treeline migration, and subalpine forest densification and succession. Research sites were located at Fortress Mountain Research Basin, Kananaskis, Alberta, where the subalpine forest examined is composed of Abies lasiocarpa (Subalpine fir) and Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce). Seasonal changes in water availability from snowmelt, precipitation, soil moisture reserves yielded stark differences in T and ET between 2016 and 2017. ET was higher in the drier year (2017), which had late snowmelt and lower summer rainfall than in the wetter year (2016) that had lower snowmelt and a rainy summer, highlighting the importance of spring snowmelt recharge of soil moisture. However, stand T of the younger trees (73% of forest population) was greater (64 mm) in 2016 (275 mm summer rainfall) than 2017 (39 mm T, 147 mm summer rainfall), and appears to be sensitive to soil moisture decreases in fall, which are largely a function of summer period rainfall. Relationships between subalpine forest water use and different growing season and antecedent (snowmelt period) hydrological conditions clarify the interactions between forest water use and alpine hydrology, which can lead to better anticipation of the hydrological response of subalpine forest-dominated basins to climate variability and change.

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The Impact of Variable Horizon Shade on the Growing Season Energy Budget of a Subalpine Headwater Wetland
Dylan M. Hrach, Richard M. Petrone, Brandon Van Huizen, Adam Green, Myroslava Khomik
Atmosphere, Volume 12, Issue 11

Surface energy budgets are important to the ecohydrology of complex terrain, where land surfaces cycle in and out of shadows creating distinct microclimates. Shading in such environments can help regulate downstream flow over the course of a growing season, but our knowledge on how shadows impact the energy budget and consequently ecohydrology in montane ecosystems is very limited. We investigated the influence of horizon shade on the surface energy fluxes of a subalpine headwater wetland in the Canadian Rocky Mountains during the growing season. During the study, surface insolation decreased by 60% (32% due to evolving horizon shade and 28% from seasonality). The influence of shade on the energy budget varied between two distinct periods: (1) Stable Shade, when horizon shade was constant and reduced sunlight by 2 h per day; and (2) Dynamic Shade, when shade increased and reduced sunlight by 0.18 h more each day, equivalent to a 13% reduction in incoming shortwave radiation and 16% in net radiation. Latent heat flux, the dominant energy flux at our site, varied temporally because of changes in incoming radiation, atmospheric demand, soil moisture and shade. Horizon shade controlled soil moisture at our site by prolonging snowmelt and reducing evapotranspiration in the late growing season, resulting in increased water storage capacity compared to other mountain wetlands. With the mounting risk of climate-change-driven severe spring flooding and late season droughts downstream of mountain headwaters, shaded subalpine wetlands provide important ecohydrological and mitigation services that are worthy of further study and mapping. This will help us better understand and protect mountain and prairie water resources.


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A <scp> δ <sup>18</sup> O </scp> and <scp> δ <sup>2</sup> H </scp> stable water isotope analysis of subalpine forest water sources under seasonal and hydrological stress in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Lindsey E. Langs, Richard M. Petrone, John W. Pomeroy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 26

Subalpine forests are hydrologically important to the function and health of mountain basins. Identifying the specific water sources and the proportions used by subalpine forests is necessary to understand potential impacts to these forests under a changing climate. The recent “Two Water Worlds” hypothesis suggests that trees can favour tightly bound soil water instead of readily available free-flowing soil water. Little is known about the specific sources of water used by subalpine trees Abies lasiocarpa (Subalpine fir) and Picea engelmannii (Engelmann spruce) in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. In this study, stable water isotope (δ18O and δ2H) samples were obtained from S. fir and Engelmann spruce trees at three points of the growing season in combination with water sources available at time of sampling (snow, vadose zone water, saturated zone water, precipitation). Using the Bayesian Mixing Model, MixSIAR, relative source water proportions were calculated. In the drought summer examined, there was a net loss of water via evapotranspiration from the system. Results highlighted the importance of tightly vadose zone, or bound soil water, to subalpine forests, providing insights of future health under sustained years of drought and net loss in summer growing seasons. This work builds upon concepts from the “Two Water Worlds” hypothesis, showing that subalpine trees can draw from different water sources depending on season and availability. In our case, water use was largely driven by a tension gradient within the soil allowing trees to utilize vadose zone water and saturated zone water at differing points of the growing season.

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Quantifying the spatial variability of melting seasonal ground ice and its influence on potential evapotranspiration spatial variability in a boreal peatland
Brandon Van Huizen, Richard M. Petrone
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 17

Abstract Melting seasonal ground ice (SGI) in western Boreal Plains (WBP) peatlands can reduce the available energy at the surface by reducing potential evapotranspiration (PET). PET often exceeds annual precipitation in the WBP. Including this effect in hydrological models may be important in assessing water deficits. However, SGI melt and the timing of ice‐free conditions vary spatially, which suggests PET spatial variability could be influenced by SGI. Understanding this potential linkage can help improve site scale PET in peatland hydrological models. The objectives of this paper were (a) to quantify the effect of ice thickness and melt rate on peatland PET; (b) quantify the spatial variability of SGI thickness and melt rate across spatial scales; and (c) assess how/if spatial variability in SGI thickness/melt rate affects site scale PET. Results from the sensitivity analysis indicated that SGI thickness had a bigger impact on reducing PET compared with the melt rate. Two SGI thickness values were used that were observed on site: 0.32 m, which was measured in a more treed area, and 0.18 m, which was in a more open area. The 0.32 m had an average PET reduction of 14 mm (±0.7), over the month of May, compared with 9 mm (±1 mm) when there was 0.18 m of SGI, which are 13.7 and 8.8% reductions, respectively. SGI thickness and melt rate, both exhibited large‐ and small‐scale spatial variability. At the large scale, spatial patterns in SGI thickness appeared to be influenced by extensive shading from the adjacent hillslopes. Small scale, SGI thickness may be a function of tree proximity and the snowpack. Finally, net radiation, rather than SGI, appeared to be the main driver behind PET spatial variability. This work enhances our conceptual understanding of the role of SGI in WBP peatlands. Future work can use the findings to better inform peatland hydrological models, allowing for better representation of peatlands in regional‐scale models.

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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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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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Hydrological effects of resource-access road crossings on boreal forested peatlands
Saraswati Saraswati, Richard M. Petrone, Mir Mustafizur Rahman, Gregory J. McDermid, Bin Xu, Maria Strack
Journal of Hydrology, Volume 584

Resource-access road crossings are expected to alter peatland hydrological properties by obstructing surface and sub-surface water flows. We conducted a multi-year study at two boreal peatlands – a forested bog and a shrubby rich fen near Peace River, Alberta – to study the impacts of resource access roads on the hydrology of adjacent peatland. Field measurements (bi-weekly depth to water table and hydraulic head, one-time hydraulic conductivity) during the growing seasons (May-August) of 2016 and 2017 were taken from sampling plots representing: 1) sides of the road (upstream and downstream); 2) distance from the road (obstruction); and 3) distance from culverts. Compared to the growing season average precipitation for the region of 1.8 mm d−1, the study period had very wet conditions in 2016 (3.7 mm d−1) and dry conditions in 2017 (1.1 mm d−1). In contrast to our assumptions, resource access road disturbed the surface and sub-surface water flow at the bog, but the effect was minimal at the fen as the road orientation was nearly parallel to the flow direction at the latter. At the bog, the shallowest depth to water table position was observed at upstream areas closer to the road, when culverts were located >20 m distance from transects. In contrast, when culverts were present <2 m from the transects, variation in hydrological conditions between upstream and downstream areas were greatly reduced. Our work shows road effects on peatland hydrology could be minimized by aligning roads parallel to the water flow direction when possible. If water flow is perpendicular to the road, adequate spacing and installation of culverts could help to reduce flow obstruction.


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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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Seasonal nutrient export dynamics in a mixed land use subwatershed of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada
Cameron Irvine, Merrin L. Macrae, Matthew Q. Morison, Richard M. Petrone
Journal of Great Lakes Research, Volume 45, Issue 6

Abstract Algal blooms in the Great Lakes are a concern due to excess nutrient loading from non-point sources; however, there is uncertainty over the relative contributions of various non-point sources under different types of land use in rural watersheds, particularly over annual time scales. Four nested subwatersheds in Southern Ontario, Canada (one natural woodlot, two agricultural and one mixed agricultural and urban) were monitored over one year to identify peak periods (‘hot moments’) and areas (‘hot spots’) of nutrient (dissolved reactive phosphorus, DRP; total phosphorus, TP; and nitrate, NO3−) export and discharge. Annual nutrient export was small at the natural site (0.001 kg DRP ha−1; 0.004 kg TP ha−1; 0.04 kg NO3—N ha−1) compared to the agricultural and mixed-use sites (0.10–0.15 kg DRP ha−1; 0.70–0.94 kg TP ha−1; 9.15–11.55 kg NO3—N ha−1). Temporal patterns in P concentrations were similar throughout the sites, where spring was the dominant season for P export, irrespective of land use. Within the Hopewell Creek watershed, P and N hot spots existed that were consistently hot spots across all events with the location of these hot spots driven by local land use patterns, where there was elevated P export from a dairy-dominated sub-watershed and elevated N export from both of the two agricultural sub-watersheds. These estimates of seasonal- and event-based nutrient loads and discharge across nested sub-watersheds contribute to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of identifying critical areas and periods in which to emphasize management efforts.

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Severe wildfire exposes remnant peat carbon stocks to increased post-fire drying
Nicholas Kettridge, Max Lukenbach, Kelly Hokanson, K. J. Devito, Richard M. Petrone, Carl Mendoza, J. M. Waddington
Scientific Reports, Volume 9, Issue 1

The potential of high severity wildfires to increase global terrestrial carbon emissions and exacerbate future climatic warming is of international concern. Nowhere is this more prevalent than within high latitude regions where peatlands have, over millennia, accumulated legacy carbon stocks comparable to all human CO2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Drying increases rates of peat decomposition and associated atmospheric and aquatic carbon emissions. The degree to which severe wildfires enhance drying under future climates and induce instability in peatland ecological communities and carbon stocks is unknown. Here we show that high burn severities increased post-fire evapotranspiration by 410% within a feather moss peatland by burning through the protective capping layer that restricts evaporative drying in response to low severity burns. High burn severities projected under future climates will therefore leave peatlands that dominate dry sub-humid regions across the boreal, on the edge of their climatic envelopes, more vulnerable to intense post-fire drying, inducing high rates of carbon loss to the atmosphere that amplify the direct combustion emissions.

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Seasonal ground ice impacts on spring ecohydrological conditions in a western boreal plains peatland
Brandon Van Huizen, Richard M. Petrone, Jonathan S. Price, William L. Quinton, John W. Pomeroy
Hydrological Processes, Volume 34, Issue 3

Peatlands in the Western Boreal Plains act as important water sources in the landscape. Their persistence, despite potential evapotranspiration (PET) often exceeding annual precipitation, is attributed to various water storage mechanisms. One storage element that has been understudied is seasonal ground ice (SGI). This study characterized spring SGI conditions and explored its impacts on available energy, actual evapotranspiration, water table, and near surface soil moisture in a western boreal plains peatland. The majority of SGI melt took place over May 2017. Microtopography had limited impact on melt rates due to wet conditions. SGI melt released 139mm in ice water equivalent (IWE) within the top 30cm of the peat, and weak significant relationships with water table and surface moisture suggest that SGI could be important for maintaining vegetation transpiration during dry springs. Melting SGI decreased available energy causing small reductions in PET (<10mm over the melt period) and appeared to reduce actual evapotranspiration variability but not mean rates, likely due to slow melt rates. This suggests that melting SGI supplies water, allowing evapotranspiration to occur at near potential rates, but reduces the overall rate at which evapotranspiration could occur (PET). The role of SGI may help peatlands in headwater catchments act as a conveyor of water to downstream landscapes during the spring while acting as a supply of water for the peatland. Future work should investigate SGI influences on evapotranspiration under differing peatland types, wet and dry spring conditions, and if the spatial variability of SGI melt leads to spatial variability in evapotranspiration.

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Hydrogeologic setting overrides any influence of wildfire on pore water dissolved organic carbon concentration and quality at a boreal fen
Scott J. Davidson, Matthew C. Elmes, Hayley Rogers, Christine van Beest, Richard M. Petrone, Jonathan S. Price, Maria Strack
Ecohydrology, Volume 12, Issue 7

Abstract Western Boreal Canada could experience drier hydrometeorological conditions under future climatic changes, and the drying of nonpermafrost peatlands can lead to higher frequency and extent of wildfires. Despite increasing pressures, our understanding of the impact of fire on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration and quality across boreal peatlands is not consistent. This study capitalizes on the rare opportunity of having 3 years of prefire and 3 years of postfire DOC data at a treed, moderate‐rich fen in the Western Boreal Plain, northern Alberta, to investigate wildfire effects on peatland DOC dynamics. We investigated whether a wildfire facilitated any changes in the pore water DOC concentration and quality. There was very little impact of the fire directly, with no significant changes in DOC concentrations postfire. We highlight that DOC patterns are more likely to be controlled by local hydrogeological factors than any effect of fire. Fall hydrological conditions and subsequent winter storage processes impose a strong control on DOC concentrations the following year. We suggest that the presence or absence of concrete ground frost in the fen (determined by fall water table position) influences overwinter storage changes, controlling the effect that DOC‐poor snowmelt may have on pore water concentrations. However, an increase in SUVA 254 was found 2 years postfire, indicating an increase in aromaticity. These results highlight the need for careful consideration of the local hydrogeologic setting and hydrological regime when predicting and analysing trends in DOC concentrations and quality.

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Hydraulic redistribution and hydrological controls on aspen transpiration and establishment in peatlands following wildfire
Midori Depante, Matthew Q. Morison, Richard M. Petrone, K. J. Devito, Nicholas Kettridge, J. M. Waddington
Hydrological Processes, Volume 33, Issue 21

Abstract In the sub‐humid Western Boreal Plains of Alberta, where evapotranspiration often exceeds precipitation, trembling aspen ( Populus tremuloides Michx.) uplands often depend on adjacent peatlands for water supply through hydraulic redistribution. Wildfire is common in the Boreal Plains, so the resilience of the transfer of water from peatlands to uplands through roots immediately following wildfire may have implications for aspen succession. The objective of this research was to characterize post‐fire peatland‐upland hydraulic connectivity and assess controls on aspen transpiration (as a measure of stress and productivity) among landscape topographic positions. In May 2011, a wildfire affected 90,000 ha of north central Alberta, including the Utikuma Region Study Area (URSA). Portions of an URSA glacio‐fluval outwash lake catchment were burned, which included forests and a small peatland. Within 1 year after the fire, aspen were found to be growing in both the interior and margins of this peatland. Across recovering land units, transpiration varied along a topographic gradient of upland midslope (0.42 mm hr −1 ) > upland hilltop (0.29 mm hr −1 ) > margin (0.23 mm hr −1 ) > peatland (0.10 mm hr −1 ); similar trends were observed with leaf area and stem heights. Although volumetric water content was below field capacity, P. tremuloides were sustained through roots present, likely before fire, in peatland margins through hydraulic redistribution. Evidence for this was observed through the analysis of oxygen (δ 18 O) and hydrogen (δ 2 H) isotopes where upland xylem and peat core signatures were −10.0‰ and −117.8‰ and −9.2‰ and −114.0‰, respectively. This research highlights the potential importance of hydraulic redistribution to forest sustainability and recovery, in which the continued delivery of water may result in the encroachment of aspen into peatlands. As such, we suggest that through altering ecosystem services, peatland margins following fire may be at risk to aspen colonization during succession.


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Monitoring ecosystem reclamation recovery using optical remote sensing: Comparison with field measurements and eddy covariance
L. Chasmer, Thomas Baker, Sean K. Carey, Justin Straker, Stacey Lynne Strilesky, Richard M. Petrone
Science of The Total Environment, Volume 642

Time series remote sensing vegetation indices derived from SPOT 5 data are compared with vegetation structure and eddy covariance flux data at 15 dry to wet reclamation and reference sites within the Oil Sands region of Alberta, Canada. This comprehensive analysis examines the linkages between indicators of ecosystem function and change trajectories observed both at the plot level and within pixels. Using SPOT imagery, we find that higher spatial resolution datasets (e.g. 10 m) improves the relationship between vegetation indices and structural measurements compared with interpolated (lower resolution) pixels. The simple ratio (SR) vegetation index performs best when compared with stem density-based indicators (R2 = 0.65; p < 0.00), while the normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI) and soil adjusted vegetation index (SAVI) are most comparable to foliage indicators (leaf area index (LAI) and canopy cover (R2 = 0.52-0.78; p > 0.02). Fluxes (net ecosystem production (NEP) and gross ecosystem production (GEP)) are most related to NDVI and SAVI when these are interpolated to larger 20 m × 20 m pixels (R2 = 0.44-0.50; p < 0.00). As expected, decreased sensitivity of NDVI is problematic for sites with LAI > 3 m2 m-2, making this index more appropriate for newly regenerating reclamation areas. For sites with LAI < 3 m2 m-2, trajectories of vegetation change can be mapped over time and are within 2.7% and 3.3% of annual measured LAI changes observed at most sites. This study demonstrates the utility of remote sensing in combination with field and eddy covariance data for monitoring and scaling of reclaimed and reference site productivity within and beyond the Oil Sands Region of western Canada.

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Remote sensing of ecosystem trajectories as a proxy indicator for watershed water balance
L. Chasmer, K. J. Devito, Chris Hopkinson, Richard M. Petrone
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 7

Ecosystem trajectories are inextricably linked to hydrology; however, water availability is not easily observed within the landscape. The response of vegetation to soil water availability may provide an indicator of local hydrology and the resilience or sensitivity of ecosystems to long‐term changes in water balance. In this study, vegetation trajectories derived from Landsat Modified Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index over a 22‐year period are used as an indicator of spatio‐temporal changes of watershed water balance and surface water storage within 6 proximal watersheds of the Boreal Plains ecozone of Alberta, Canada. The interactions between hydrology, topography, geology, and land cover type are examined as they relate to vegetation change.

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Potential influence of nutrient availability along a hillslope: Peatland gradient on aspen recovery following fire
Midori Depante, Richard M. Petrone, K. J. Devito, Nicholas Kettridge, Merrin L. Macrae, Carl Mendoza, J. M. Waddington
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 5

The Boreal Plains (BP) of Western Canada have been exposed to increasing disturbance by wildfire and host a mixture of upland‐wetland‐pond complexes with substantial quantities of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) throughout the terrestrial areas. The ability of these tree species to regenerate within both upland and wetland areas of the BP following wildfire is unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of fire on nutrient dynamics in soil and water in peatlands and forested landscapes in the BP and relate this to aspen regeneration. Nutrient concentrations, nutrient supply rates, and net nutrient mineralization rates were determined in burned and unburned sections of a peatland and forest and compared with the regeneration of aspen. NO3−, NH4+, and P varied spatially throughout the landscape, and differences were observed between peatland and upland areas. In general, differences in nutrient dynamics were not observed between burned and unburned areas, with the exception of P. Nutrient and growth data suggest that aspen do not require nutrient‐rich conditions for regeneration and instead relied on forest litter to satisfy nutrient demands. Although the peatlands contained high nutrients, aspen did not flourish in the combination of anoxic and aerobic organic‐rich soils present in this area. Although aspen may use peat water and nutrients through their rooting zones, peatlands are unsuitable for aspen re‐establishment in the long‐term. However, the combination of abundant nutrients in surface mineral soils in peat margins may indicate the vulnerability of margins to upland transformations in later successional stages.

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Ecohydrological functioning of an upland undergoing reclamation on post-mining landscape of the Athabasca oil sands region, Canada
Tristan Gingras-Hill, Felix Nwaishi, Merrin L. Macrae, Jonathan S. Price, Richard M. Petrone
Ecohydrology, Volume 11, Issue 4

Ecohydrological functioning of natural Boreal forest in Canada's Boreal Plains is a product of interactions between soil hydrophysical characteristics and hydrogeochemical processes. These interactions create a moisture–nutrient gradient within the surface soils, increasing along low‐relief transitions from upland to riparian zone, and in turn influence the distribution of vegetation communities. It is not yet known if/when analogous ecohydrological functions can be achieved in constructed uplands following industrial disturbance, such as that following oil sands development. Hence, to assess this, we studied interactions between hydrogeochemical processes and vegetation colonization in a constructed upland relative to hydrophysical properties of 2 reclamation cover substrates during a typical continental climate's growing season. Our results indicated that in 3 years of postconstruction, the establishment of a moisture–nutrient gradient that supports vegetation colonization along slope positions was still limited by heterogeneity of cover substrates. Portions of the upland under peat–mineral mix were characterized by lower nutrient availability, high moisture content, and establishment of planted shrubs and trees. In contrast, forest floor materials plots were characterized by poor soil quality, but higher nutrient availability and greater colonization of invasive grasses and native shrubs. We suggest that the colonization of underdeveloped soils by invasive grasses may facilitate pedogenic processes and thus should be accepted by reclamation managers as a successional milestone in the recovery of ecohydrological functioning of constructed uplands. Poor soil structure under forest floor materials could not support edaphic conditions required by plants to efficiently utilize fertilizer, making this practise futile at the early stage of soil development.

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Effect of climate change and mining on hydrological connectivity of surficial layers in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region
Mazda Kompani-Zare, Richard M. Petrone, Mahyar Shafii, Derek T. Robinson, Rebecca C. Rooney
Hydrological Processes, Volume 32, Issue 25

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Kompanizare M, Petrone RM, Shafii M, Robinson DT, Rooney RC. Effect of climate change and mining on hydrological connectivity of surficial layers in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Hydrological Processes. 2018;32:3698–3716., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

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Disturbance Impacts on Thermal Hot Spots and Hot Moments at the Peatland-Atmosphere Interface
Rhoswen Leonard, Nicholas Kettridge, K. J. Devito, Richard M. Petrone, Carl Mendoza, J. M. Waddington, Stefan Krause
Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 45, Issue 1

Soil‐surface temperature acts as a master variable driving nonlinear terrestrial ecohydrological, biogeochemical, and micrometeorological processes, inducing short‐lived or spatially isolated extremes across heterogeneous landscape surfaces. However, subcanopy soil‐surface temperatures have been, to date, characterized through isolated, spatially discrete measurements. Using spatially complex forested northern peatlands as an exemplar ecosystem, we explore the high‐resolution spatiotemporal thermal behavior of this critical interface and its response to disturbances by using Fiber‐Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing. Soil‐surface thermal patterning was identified from 1.9 million temperature measurements under undisturbed, trees removed and vascular subcanopy removed conditions. Removing layers of the structurally diverse vegetation canopy not only increased mean temperatures but it shifted the spatial and temporal distribution, range, and longevity of thermal hot spots and hot moments. We argue that linking hot spots and/or hot moments with spatially variable ecosystem processes and feedbacks is key for predicting ecosystem function and resilience.

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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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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.