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Transient peat properties in two pond-peatland complexes in the sub-humid Western Boreal Plain, Canada

Author(s): R.M. Petrone | K.J. Devito | U. Silins | C. Mendoza | S.C. Brown | S.C. Kaufman | J.S. Price

Journal: Mires and Peat
ISSN 1819-754X

Volume: 3;
Issue: 05;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: compression | disturbance | ground frost | shrinkage | subsidence | wetland hydrology

In the Canadian Western Boreal Plain (WBP), wetlands (ponds and peatlands) comprise up to 50% of the landscape and represent unique habitat where summer precipitation is often outpaced by evapotranspiration and hillslope groundwater position does not follow topography. In this sub-humid location, groundwater fluxes and stores in riparian peatlands influence pond water levels and root zone moisture sources for forested uplands. To accurately describe the transport and retention of water in peat, it is important to consider peat subsidence. This paper quantifies the amount and effect of seasonal subsidence in a riparian peatland in the Utikuma Lake region in north-central Alberta, Canada. Results demonstrate that the deep and poorly decomposed peat deposits are resistant to compression, and that thick (and persistent) ground frost hinders pore collapse (shrinkage) above the water table until late summer when the ground has thawed. Even then, subsidence is still limited to the top 50 cm and is not closely related to changes in peatland water table or pond water level. Thus the water balance of these ponds and riparian areas appears to be less sensitive to peat volume changes than it is to the persistence of a substantial frost layer well into the snow-free period.
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