The effect of moisture on decomposition processes in the disturbed peatlands of the Wainfleet bog /
Diamond, Joshua C.
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The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of increased soil moisture levels on the decomposition processes in a peat-extracted bog. Field experiments, in which soil moisture levels were manipulated, were conducted using 320 microcosms in the Wainfleet Bog from May 2002 to November 2004. Decomposition was measured using litter bags and monitoring the abundance of macro invertebrate decomposers known as Collembola. Litter bags containing wooden toothpicks (n=2240), filter paper (n=480) and Betula pendula leaves (n=40) were buried in the soil and removed at regular time intervals up to one year. The results of the litter bag studies demonstrated a significant reduction of the decomposition of toothpicks (p<0.001), filter paper (p<0.001), and Betula pendula leaves (p<O.OO I) when soil moisture levels were increased to levels approaching those of natural conditions. These conditions significantly reduced the mean mass loss of toothpicks by 30 %, filter paper by 20 % and Betula pendula leaves by 18 % over one year when compared to the control. The abundance of Collembola was monitored using a non-destructive method in the microcosms. By contrast the effect of increased moisture levels on the abundance of Collembola was more variable and difficult to interpret. The conclusions of this study indicate that the Wainfleet Bog is a highly disturbed peatland and that the greatest reductions in decomposition can be obtained by restoring the soil moisture levels near those of undisturbed conditions.