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Functional Assessment of Alaska Peatlands in Cook Inlet Basin, Region 10 Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE)
Moffett, M., M. Gracz, P. North, M. LaCroix, B. Hill, AND C. Elonen. Functional Assessment of Alaska Peatlands in Cook Inlet Basin, Region 10 Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE). US EPA Region 10, Seattle, WA, EPA/600/F-15/089, 2015.
Impact Statement: For south central Alaska, management of wetlands shall be helped knowing there is a meaningful classification of the peatlands for this area and there are a variety of ecological functions that can be examined and measured to support decisionmaking about stressor effects on the peatlands and their ecoservices. Whether managers are doing a wetland fill permit review, conservation planning, or other environmental decision-making, the scientific basis for making determinations on how to continue to ensure that Alaskan peatlands are sustainable has been advanced by this research.
Peatlands in south central Alaska are the dominant wetland class in the lowlands of the Cook Inlet Basin. Currently Alaska peatlands are extensive and largely pristine but these areas are facing increasing human development. This study focused on obtaining measures of ecological functions of these peatlands to help environmental managers and wetland scientists better understand processes and ecoservices that peatlands in this landscape provide. Measures of peatland processes will help determine ecological expectations for wetlands of this area. Hydrological functions were measured in a variety of ways for this project. Results included testing the regional Cook Inlet Wetland Classification (CIC) to accurately classify peatlands into several subtypes by primarily ecohydrologic functional characteristics and we found the CIC did so better than two other classification systems. By using piezometer wells to collect porewater for chemical characterization a determination of discharge/recharge function interestingly revealed that peatlands on the Kenai Peninsula function hydrologically as bogs but are structurally often characterized by plants and water chemistry as fens. An end-member mixing model (EMMA) and water budget were measured on a small watershed with anadromous fish support and found the contribution of peatland waters to summer baseflow was significant. A functional measure of microbial extracellular enzyme activities (EEA) in shallow and deep peat was used to describe constraints on nutrient acquisition and organic C decomposition for the first time in Alaska peatlands and revealed that enzymatic stoichiometry was useful for determining microbial P and N limitation and phenol oxidase was especially helpful in prediction of P and N acquisition in relationship to organic C decomposition. In addition 260 porewater samples were analyzed for dissolved arsenic levels and 30% or 8 of 27 different peatlands exceeded the current drinking water standard of 10µgAs/L. Together, these results bring a better conceptual understanding using quantitative and objective measures of ecosystem processes and effects on ecological services within and among peatlands in the Alaskan watersheds where peatlands occur.
AKPEATLANDPROJECT-V4FINAL.PDF (PDF,NA pp, 264.758 KB, about PDF)
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (COMMUNICATION PRODUCT/EXTERNAL FACT SHEET)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY
MID-CONTINENT ECOLOGY DIVISION