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  1. Abstract

    Wetland soils are a key global sink for organic carbon (C) and a focal point for C management and accounting efforts. The ongoing push for wetland restoration presents an opportunity for climate mitigation, but C storage expectations are poorly defined due to a lack of reference information and an incomplete understanding of what drives natural variability among wetlands. We sought to address these shortcomings by (1) quantifying the range of variability in wetland soil organic C (SOC) stocks on a depressional landscape (Delmarva Peninsula, USA) and (2) investigating the role of hydrology and relative topography in explaining variability among wetlands. We found a high degree of variability within individual wetlands and among wetlands with similar vegetation and hydrogeomorphic characteristics. This suggests that uncertainty should be presented explicitly when inferring ecosystem processes from wetland types or land cover classes. Differences in hydrologic regimes, particularly the rate of water level recession, explained some of the variability among wetlands, but relationships between SOC stocks and some hydrologic metrics were eclipsed by factors associated with separate study sites. Relative topography accounted for a similar portion of SOC stock variability as hydrology, indicating that it could be an effective substitute in large-scale analyses. As wetlands worldwide are restored and focus increases on quantifying C benefits, the importance of appropriately defining and assessing reference systems is paramount. Our results highlight the current uncertainty in this process, but suggest that incorporating landscape heterogeneity and drivers of natural variability into reference information may improve how wetland restoration is implemented and evaluated.

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  2. Abstract

    Hydrologic controls on carbon processing and export are a critical feature of wetland ecosystems. Hydrologic response to climate variability has important implications for carbon‐climate feedbacks, aquatic metabolism, and water quality. Little is known about how hydrologic processes along the terrestrial‐aquatic interface in low‐relief, depressional wetland catchments influence carbon dynamics, particularly regarding soil‐derived dissolved organic matter (DOM) transport and transformation. To understand the role of different soil horizons as potential sources of DOM to wetland systems, we measured water‐soluble organic matter (WSOM) concentration and composition in soils collected from upland to wetland transects at four Delmarva Bay wetlands in the eastern United States. Spectral metrics indicated that WSOM in shallow organic horizons had increased aromaticity, higher molecular weight, and plant‐like signatures. In contrast, WSOM from deeper, mineral horizons had lower aromaticity, lower molecular weights, and microbial‐like signatures. Organic soil horizons had the highest concentrations of WSOM, and WSOM decreased with increasing soil depth. WSOM concentrations also decreased from the upland to the wetland, suggesting that continuous soil saturation reduces WSOM concentrations. Despite wetland soils having lower WSOM, these horizons are thicker and continuously hydrologically connected to wetland surface and groundwater, leading to wetland soils representing the largest potential source of soil‐derived DOM to the Delmarva Bay wetland system. Knowledge of which soil horizons are most biogeochemically significant for DOM transport in wetland ecosystems will become increasingly important as climate change is expected to alter hydrologic regimes of wetland soils and their resulting carbon contributions from the landscape.

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  3. Abstract

    A major source of uncertainty in the global methane budget arises from quantifying the area of wetlands and other inland waters. This study addresses how the dynamics of surface water extent in forested wetlands affect the calculation of methane emissions. We used fine resolution satellite imagery acquired at sub‐weekly intervals together with a semiempirical methane emissions model to estimate daily surface water extent and diffusive methane fluxes for a low‐relief wetland‐rich watershed. Comparisons of surface water model predictions to field measurements showed agreement with the magnitude of changes in water extent, including for wetlands with surface area less than 1,000 m2. Results of methane emission models showed that wetlands smaller than 1 hectare (10,000 m2) were responsible for a majority of emissions, and that considering dynamic inundation of forested wetlands resulted in 49%–62% lower emission totals compared to models using a single estimate for each wetland’s size.

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