Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1686
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1686
06 Jun 2024
 | 06 Jun 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

A Synthesis of Sphagnum Litterbag Experiments: Initial Leaching Losses Bias Decomposition Rate Estimates

Henning Teickner, Edzer Pebesma, and Klaus-Holger Knorr

Abstract. Decomposition is one of the major controls of long-term sequestration of carbon in northern peatlands. Our knowledge of the magnitude and controls of decomposition rates is derived to a large extent from litterbag experiments. Similar to other litter types, initial leaching losses may bias decomposition rates of Sphagnum, but their magnitudes and variability are not well known.

We present a meta-analysis of 15 Sphagnum litterbag studies to estimate initial leaching losses (l0), to test whether initial leaching losses can bias Sphagnum decomposition rate estimates (k0), and to analyze how initial leaching losses increase errors in k0 estimates.

Average l0 estimates range between 3 to 18 mass-%, average k0 estimates between 0.01 to 1.16 yr-1. Simulations and models fitted to empirical data indicate that ignoring initial leaching losses leads to an overestimation of k0. An error analysis suggests that k0 and l0 can be estimated only with relatively large errors because of limitations in the design of most available litterbag experiments. Sampling the first litterbags shortly after the start of the experiments allows more accurate estimation of l0 and k0. We estimated large l0 (>5 mass-%) also for only air-dried samples which could imply that Sphagnum litterbag experiments with dried litter are unrepresentative for natural decomposition processes in which l0 may be smaller according to leaching experiments with fresh litter.

We conclude that comparing results of litterbag experiments between experimental treatments and between studies and accurately estimating decomposition rates may be possible only if initial leaching losses are explicitly considered.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Henning Teickner, Edzer Pebesma, and Klaus-Holger Knorr

Status: open (until 18 Jul 2024)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
Henning Teickner, Edzer Pebesma, and Klaus-Holger Knorr

Data sets

Peatland Decomposition Database (1.0.0) Henning Teickner and Klaus-Holger Knorr https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.11276065

Model code and software

Compendium of R Code and Data for ‘A Synthesis of Sphagnum Litterbag Experiments: Initial Leaching Losses Bias Decomposition Rate Estimates’ and ‘Underestimation of Anaerobic Decomposition Rates in Sphagnum Litterbag Experiments by the Holocene Peatland Model Depends on Initial Leaching Losses’ Henning Teickner and Klaus-Holger Knorr https://doi.org/10.5281/ZENODO.11472955

Henning Teickner, Edzer Pebesma, and Klaus-Holger Knorr

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Short summary
Decomposition rates for Sphagnum mosses, the main peat forming plants in northern peatlands, are often derived from litterbag experiments. Here, we estimate initial leaching losses from available Sphagnum litterbag experiments and analyze how decomposition rates are biased when initial leaching losses are ignored. Our analyses indicate that initial leaching losses range between 3 to 18 mass-% and that this may result in overestimated mass losses when extrapolated to several decades.