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Keywords:

  • Phenol oxidase;
  • soil enzymes;
  • peatland;
  • DOC;
  • drainage;
  • decomposition

Abstract

Peat drainage, a common land-use practice in Europe, has been associated with habitat degradation and increased particulate and dissolved carbon release. In the UK, peatland drain blockage has been encouraged in recent years as a management practice to preserve peatland habitats and to reduce fluvial carbon loss and municipal water discoloration. Drain blockage has, however, been found to increase drain-water dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and coloration in the short term. In order to investigate the contribution of changes in extracellular phenol oxidase activity to the increase in water coloration following peatland drain blockage, cores collected from a riparian peatland in North Wales were incubated under impeded drainage conditions. Impeded drainage resulted in the stimulation of peat extracellular phenol oxidase activity and heightened soluble phenolic concentrations, suggesting that changes in extracellular phenol oxidase activity may be a key driver of increases in DOC and water coloration following peatland drain blockage. An increase in peat pH with impeded drainage was also observed that may have contributed to the heightened soluble phenolic concentrations – directly (through effects on solubility) and/or indirectly as a driver of the elevated extracellular phenol oxidase activity.