Wetlands Ecology and Management, Volume 26, Issue 6
- Anthology ID:
- Springer Science and Business Media LLC
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.