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Increased Peatland Nutrient Availability Following the Fort McMurray Horse River Wildfire

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Hydrometeorology Research Group, Department of Geography & Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
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Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Mount Royal University, 4825 Mount Royal Gate SW, Calgary, AB T3E 6K6, Canada
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School of Geography & Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada
4
Biogeochemistry Lab, Department of Geography & Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(9), 142; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11090142
Received: 12 March 2019 / Revised: 8 July 2019 / Accepted: 18 July 2019 / Published: 22 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Effects of Fire on Peatland Ecosystems)
Northern peatlands are experiencing increased wildfire disturbance, threatening peatland biogeochemical function and ability to remain major stores of carbon (C) and macronutrients (nitrogen—N, and phosphorus—P). The impacts of climate change-driven drying on peatland nutrient dynamics have been explored previously; however, the impacts of wildfire on nutrient dynamics have not been examined when comparing burned and unburned areas in a post-fire fen. This study assessed the impact of wildfire on N and P bioavailability, change in CNP stoichiometric balance and feedback on plant nutrient limitation patterns in a fen peatland, one-year post-wildfire, by comparing Burned and Unburned areas. Water extractable P increased up to 200 times in shallow leachate, 125 times in groundwater and 5 times in peat. Surface ash leachate had increased concentrations in Ammonium (NH4+) and Nitrate (NO3), and through groundwater mobility, increased extractable N concentrations were observed in peat throughout the entire fen. The net mineralization of N and P were minimal at the Burned areas relative to Unburned areas. Fire affected plant nutrient limitation patterns, switching from dominantly N-limited to NP co-limited and P-limitation in moss and vascular species respectively. The top 20 cm of the Burned area C concentrations was higher relative to the Unburned area, with increased CN and CP ratios also being found in the Burned area. These findings suggest that the long-term effects of elevated C, N, and P concentrations on plant productivity and decomposition must be re-evaluated for fire disturbance to understand the resiliency of peatland biogeochemistry post-wildfire. View Full-Text
Keywords: wildfire; peatland; nitrogen; phosphorus; nutrients wildfire; peatland; nitrogen; phosphorus; nutrients
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van Beest, C.; Petrone, R.; Nwaishi, F.; Waddington, J.M.; Macrae, M. Increased Peatland Nutrient Availability Following the Fort McMurray Horse River Wildfire. Diversity 2019, 11, 142.

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