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Northern peatlands are a terrestrial carbon store, with an annual sink of 0.1 Pg C yr−1 and a total storage estimate of 547 Pg C. Northern peatlands are also major contributors of atmospheric methane. Most land surface models do not accurately represent peatland carbon emissions, partly because they do not represent the hydrologic cycle and/or microtopography adequately. Interactions between water table depth and microtopography in peatlands influence decomposition and modulate CO2 and CH4 fluxes. A modified version of the land surface component of the Energy Exascale Earth System Model, was recently created to represent the microtopography and hydrology of a raised dome bog in northern Minnesota, USA. In this study, three microtopographic parameters are analyzed in the modified version: hummock height, hummock-hollow spacing, and percent hollow. Terrestrial laser scanning observations are used to set uncertainty bounds for these parameters. Our model experiment results suggest that carbon-related quantities of interest (QOI) were typically the most sensitive to hummock height, and those QOI (especially net ecosystem exchange, NEE) were sensitive to interactions between parameters. Furthermore, NEE was most relatively influenced by microtopographic parameters in the model, varying by 35%. We found that increasing hummock height resulted in more C being stored in plant tissue and less in soil organic matter. This coincided with decreases in Sphagnum and increases in Picea and shrub net primary production. These results suggest that future studies may consider extending prognostic capabilities of carbon cycling by incorporating hummock hollow microtopography into earth system models.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License