Measurements of the spatial variability of methane (CH4) emissions, net CO2 ecosystem exchange (NEE), and dissolved carbon (CH4, CO2, and DOC) were made in a boreal patterned peatland in northern Sweden in the summers (May to September) of 1992 and 1993. Carbon balance terms were measured and the carbon balance inferred at different peatland surface topography features (e.g. ridges, lawns, and pools) and at different positions within the peatland (e.g. plateau, margin). Combining these data permits a comparison of the carbon balance at the peatland scale for the two field seasons.
Trends in the spatial variability of the net carbon storage, as determined by the difference between inputs and outputs, suggest that carbon storage decreased in lawns from the margin of the peatland to the central plateau, while the reverse trend occurred in ridges. This indicates a difference in carbon exchange processes between sites with different surface topography due to differences in soil moisture and temperature.
Total carbon storage for the peatland, weighted for topographic variability, indicates that the peatland gained carbon in 1992 (2.0 g C m− 2), but lost carbon in 1993 ( − 7.6 g C m− 2). There was little variation in mean seasonal air temperature and total precipitation between the two years suggesting that the timing and magnitude of temperature and precipitation variation within the growing season are important for the season carbon balance. Because the carbon storage differences were small relative to the potential errors we conclude that the peatland was neither a net sink nor source of atmospheric carbon. This research demonstrates the importance of position in a peatland for the inference of long-term carbon accumulation and the assessment of contemporary exchange rates.