EGU23-15114, updated on 07 Oct 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Changes of greenhouse gas fluxes and corresponding microbial communities upon rewetting of a coastal peatland with brackish seawater

Gerald Jurasinski1,2,3, Cordula Nina Gutekunst1, Susanne Liebner4,5, Anna-Kathrina Jenner6, Erwin Don Racasa7, Klaus-Holger Knorr8, Sara Elizabeth Anthony1, Daniel Lars Pönisch9, Michael Ernst Böttcher2,6,10, Manon Janssen7, Jens Kallmeyer4, Franziska Koebsch11, and Gregor Rehder9
Gerald Jurasinski et al.
  • 1University of Rostock, Landscape Ecology, Rostock, D-18059, Germany
  • 2University of Rostock, Interdisciplinary Faculty, Rostock, D-18059, Germany
  • 3University of Greifswald, Peatland Science, D-17489, Germany
  • 4German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), Section Geomicrobiology, Potsdam, D-14473, Germany
  • 5University of Potsdam, Institute of Biochemistry and Biology, Potsdam, D-14476, Germany
  • 6Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW), Geochemistry and Isotope Biogeochemistry Group, Warnemünde, D-18119, Germany
  • 7University of Rostock, Soil Physics, Rostock, D-18059, Germany
  • 8University of Münster, Ecohydrology & Biogeochemistry Group, Münster, D-48149, Germany
  • 9Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW), Trace Gas Biogeochemistry, Warnemünde, D-18119, Germany
  • 10University of Greifswald, Marine Geochemistry, Greifswald, D-17489, Germany
  • 11University of Göttingen, Bioclimatology, Göttingen, D-37073, Germany

Rewetting of drained peatlands reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) substantially. However, elevated methane (CH4) emissions can occur, at least in the short-term. The impact of rewetting coastal peatlands with brackish water remains yet unclear, although beneficial effects such as lower CH4 emissions seem likely, due to high sulfate availability. Here, we compare pre- and post-rewetting greenhouse gas fluxes, biogeochemical parameters and the abundance of specific microbial groups in a coastal peatland at the German Baltic Sea coast that was formerly drained and used as an agricultural grassland and recently rewetted with brackish water. 

We hypothesized that flooding with brackish seawater reduces CO2 emissions despite favoring sulfate-reducers. It should also limit CH4 production and favor anaerobic methane and thus keep CH4 emissions low although aerobic methane oxidation may decrease. We measured CH4 and CO2 fluxes along a soil wetness gradient before rewetting and along a water level gradient after rewetting with brackish seawater and estimated cumulative CH4, CO2 net ecosystem exchange (NEE), and ecosystem respiration (Reco). Soil cores for biogeochemical and microbial analyses were taken at seven locations along the transect pre- and post-rewetting. We used quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on 16S rRNA, mcrA, pmoA and dsrB genes to quantify the abundances of total prokaryotes, methanogens, aerobic methanotrophs and sulfate-reducing bacteria.

After rewetting, cumulative CH4 net fluxes and NEE increased at locations that were previously dry, while Reco halved compared to before rewetting. This correlated with the absolute abundances of specific microbial groups and the surface/pore water biogeochemistry. Under the newly created water-logged conditions, the abundances of methanogenic as well as of sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) increased at previously dry sampling locations, but remained constant at the former ditch location. At the same time, the abundance of the aerobic methanotroph community on previously dry locations decreased, which indicates lower aerobic methane oxidation potentials. Pore water CH4 and CO2 concentrations suggest that gas production most likely increased at the former terrestrial locations and stable carbon isotope measurements support an increase of methanogenesis in the peat at some locations. Isotopic analyses also provide some support for persistent methane oxidation either through anaerobic or aerobic taxa at one location.

Brackish water rewetting strongly modified the dominant methane-cycling processes but resulted in higher greenhouse gas emissions of both CO2 and CH4 in the first year after rewetting. As expected, CH4 emissions after rewetting were lower than in freshwater rewetted fens, while NEE was unexpectedly high. Since Reco strongly decreased, we assume that peat mineralization was successfully prevented and that ongoing CO2 emissions rather derived from strongly reduced CO2 uptake, supply of terminal electron acceptors (especially sulfate), and excess substrate availability from decaying vegetation. There is great potential for reduction of both, CH4 and CO2 emissions after the initial boost when readily available substrate is depleted. However, our study also reveals the complexity of peatland restoration and the possibility of transient effects upon rewetting, and therefore the value of undrained, pristine peatlands as well as their importance in sequestering carbon.

How to cite: Jurasinski, G., Gutekunst, C. N., Liebner, S., Jenner, A.-K., Racasa, E. D., Knorr, K.-H., Anthony, S. E., Pönisch, D. L., Böttcher, M. E., Janssen, M., Kallmeyer, J., Koebsch, F., and Rehder, G.: Changes of greenhouse gas fluxes and corresponding microbial communities upon rewetting of a coastal peatland with brackish seawater, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-15114,, 2023.