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Keywords:

  • methane emission;
  • wetlands;
  • peat;
  • acid rain;
  • sulfate reduction;
  • methanogenesis

[1] The effect of acid rain SO42− deposition on peatland CH4 emissions was examined by manipulating SO42− inputs to a pristine raised peat bog in northern Scotland. Weekly pulses of dissolved Na2SO4 were applied to the bog over two years in doses of 25, 50, and 100 kg S ha−1 yr−1, reflecting the range of pollutant S deposition loads experienced in acid rain-impacted regions of the world. CH4 fluxes were measured at regular intervals using a static chamber/gas chromatographic flame ionization detector method. Total emissions of CH4 were reduced by between 21 and 42% relative to controls, although no significant differences were observed between treatments. Estimated total annual fluxes during the second year of the experiment were 16.6 g m−2 from the controls and (in order of increasing SO42− dose size) 10.7, 13.2, and 9.8 g m−2 from the three SO42− treatments, respectively. The relative extent of CH4 flux suppression varied with changes in both peat temperature and peat water table with the largest suppression during cool periods and episodes of falling water table. Our findings suggest that low doses of SO42− at deposition rates commonly experienced in areas impacted by acid rain, may significantly affect CH4 emissions from wetlands in affected areas. We propose that SO42− from acid rain can stimulate sulfate-reducing bacteria into a population capable of outcompeting methanogens for substrates. We further propose that this microbially mediated interaction may have a significant current and future effect on the contribution of northern peatlands to the global methane budget.