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Wetland Ecosystem Research Seminar ES 321

Peatlands have sequestered vast stores of soil carbon since deglaciation, accounting for approximately one-third of the global pool of soil carbon. This seminar will focus on responses of northern wetlands to climate change.  In particular, we will address three main topics: the environmental controls on interannual and seasonal variability in CO2 and CH4 gas exchanges, the responses of plant communities along hydrologic and nutrient gradients to climate variability, and the influence of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on carbon exchanges and vegetation.  Group discussion of primary scientific literature, independent research, and investigation of research methods are core components. Pre-requisites: At least 8 credits of 200 or 300-level laboratory science, and permission of the instructor. 

Readings: Recommended books for background reading: Boreal Peatland Ecosystems, eds. R.K. Wieder and D.H. Vitt, Springer, 2006; Biology of Peatlands by H. Rydin and J. Jeglum, Oxford University Press, 2006.  Additional readings from the scientific literature will be the basis of class discussion.

Instructor: Jill Bubier (jbubier), Clapp 308, x2607; office hours by appointment
Co-instructor: Tuula Larmola (tlarmola), Clapp 313; office hours by appointment
Teaching assistants: Bianca Young (young20b) and Chrissy Kobyljanec (kobyl20c)
Classroom: Clapp Laboratory 225




Readings (preliminary)

Due dates

Jan 26

Introduction: goals



Feb. 2




Feb. 9

Wetland classification and terminology

Peatland development

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems ch. 1- 3
The Biology of Peatlands, ch. 1, 2, 7

*Turunen et al. 2002


Feb. 16


Winter ecology, hydrology and floodplain swamps

Field trip: Wetlands of Stony Brook

The Biology of Peatlands, ch. 3, 8
Marchand, Life in the Cold, ch. 2
Mitsch and Gosselink, Wetlands, ch. 14
Jones 1991 (optional)


Feb. 23


Carbon cycle and C balance
Environmental controls on ecosystem CO2 flux (Finland and Canada examples)
Scientific method

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems ch. 9, pp 165-172
Gorham et al. 1991
(Roulet et al. 2007)
*Aurela et al. 2001
Gotelli and Ellison 2004, ch. 4

Research Ideas

March 2

Carbon cycle and C balance
Plant Production and


Conceptual framework

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems ch. 7- 8
The Biology of Peatlands, ch. 12
*Szumigalski and Bayley 1996
*Moore et al. 2007  (Ecosystems)

*Shaver et al. 2000 (BioScience)

Research Proposals due March 1

March 9

Environmental controls on CH4 flux

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems ch. 9
Bubier and Moore 1994
*Turetsky et al. 2008

Peer Review

March 16

Spring break



March 23

CH4 production, oxidation, and transport


Effects of atmospheric nitrogen on wetlands


Conceptual framework

*Strom et al. 2005
Debate: Does warming increase or decrease CH4 emissions from peatlands?

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems, ch. 10
Jonasson et al. 2001
*Bragazza et al. 2006
*Limpens et al. 2003 (New Phytologist)
Galloway et al. 2003


March 30

Lab equipment: leaf photosynthesis measurements with Li-6400

Chapin et al ch. 5 on photosynthesis
*Reich et al 1998 (plant functional groups)
*Granath et al. 2009 (Sphagnum and N deposition)

First drafts of paper

April 6

Field trip: Granby Bog

Boreal Peatland Ecosystems, ch. 4
The Biology of Peatlands, ch. 4
*Aerts 1995 (TREE) (evergreens)
*Van Breemen 1995 (Sphagnum)

1st Peer Review

April 13

Field equipment: NEE chamber measurements with Li-6200

*Bubier et al. 1998
*Juutinen et al. 2010

Disturbance: fire? permafrost? N deposition?


April 20

Student research presentations


Second draft of paper

April 27

Student research presentations


2nd Peer Review