• carbon dioxide;
  • evapotranspiration;
  • mire;
  • peat bog;
  • Sphagnum;
  • water use


We determined evapotranspiration in three experiments designed to study the effects of elevated CO2 and increased N deposition on ombrotrophic bog vegetation. Two experiments used peat monoliths with intact bog vegetation in containers, with one experiment outdoors and the other in a greenhouse. A third experiment involved monocultures and mixtures of Sphagnum magellanicum and Eriophorum angustifolium in containers in the same greenhouse. To determine water use of the bog vegetation in July–August for each experiment and each year we measured water inputs and outputs from the containers. We studied the effects of elevated CO2 and N supply on evapotranspiration in relation to vascular plant biomass and exposure of the moss surface (measured as height of the moss surface relative to the container edge).

Elevated CO2 reduced water use of the bog vegetation in all three experiments, but the CO2 effect on evapotranspiration interacted with vascular plant biomass and exposure of the moss surface. Evapotranspiration in the outdoor experiment was largely determined by evaporation from the Sphagnum moss surface (as affected by exposure to wind) and less so by vascular plant transpiration. Nevertheless, elevated CO2 significantly reduced evapotranspiration by 9–10% in the outdoor experiment.

Vascular plants reduced evapotranspiration in the outdoor experiment, but increased water use in the greenhouse experiments. The relation between vascular plant abundance and evapotranspiration appears to depend on wind conditions; suggesting that vascular plants reduce water losses mainly by reducing wind speed at the moss surface.

Sphagnum growth is very sensitive to changes in water level; low water availability can have deleterious effects. As a consequence, reduced evapotranspiration in summer, whether caused by elevated CO2 or by small increases in vascular plant cover, is expected to favour Sphagnum growth in ombrotrophic bog vegetation.