Large Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Temperate Peatland Pasture

Yit Arn Teh, Whendee L. Silver, Oliver Sonnentag, Matteo Detto, Maggi Kelly, Dennis D. Baldocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Agricultural drainage is thought to alter greenhouse gas emissions from temperate peatlands, with CH4 emissions reduced in favor of greater CO2 losses. Attention has largely focussed on C trace gases, and less is known about the impacts of agricultural conversion on N2O or global warming potential. We report greenhouse gas fluxes (CH4, CO2, N2O) from a drained peatland in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, California, USA currently managed as a rangeland (that is, pasture). This ecosystem was a net source of CH4 (25.8 ± 1.4 mg CH4-C m-2 d-1) and N2O (6.4 ± 0.4 mg N2O-N m-2 d-1). Methane fluxes were comparable to those of other managed temperate peatlands, whereas N2O fluxes were very high; equivalent to fluxes from heavily fertilized agroecosystems and tropical forests. Ecosystem scale CH4 fluxes were driven by "hotspots" (drainage ditches) that accounted for less than 5% of the land area but more than 84% of emissions. Methane fluxes were unresponsive to seasonal fluctuations in climate and showed minimal temporal variability. Nitrous oxide fluxes were more homogeneously distributed throughout the landscape and responded to fluctuations in environmental variables, especially soil moisture. Elevated CH4 and N2O fluxes contributed to a high overall ecosystem global warming potential (531 g CO2-C equivalents m-2 y-1), with non-CO2 trace gas fluxes offsetting the atmospheric "cooling" effects of photoassimilation. These data suggest that managed Delta peatlands are potentially large regional sources of greenhouse gases, with spatial heterogeneity in soil moisture modulating the relative importance of each gas for ecosystem global warming potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-325
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology


  • agricultural conversion
  • carbon dioxide
  • drained temperate peatland
  • global warming potential
  • management
  • methane
  • nitrous oxide
  • Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta


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