Long-term ozone effects on vegetation, microbial community and methane dynamics of boreal peatland microcosms in open-field conditions
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To study the effects of elevated ozone concentration on methane dynamics and a sedge species, Eriophorum vaginatum, we exposed peatland microcosms, isolated by coring from an oligotrophic pine fen, to double ambient ozone concentration in an open-air ozone exposure field for four growing seasons. The field consists of eight circular plots of which four were fumigated with elevated ozone concentration and four were ambient controls. At the latter part of the first growing season (week 33, 2003), the methane emission was 159 +/- 14 mg CH4 m(-2) day(-1) (mean +/- SE) in the ozone treatment and 214 +/- 8 mg CH4 m(-2) day(-1) under the ambient control. However, towards the end of the experiment the ozone treatment slightly, but consistently, enhanced the methane emission. At the end of the third growing season (2005), microbial biomass (estimated by phospholipid fatty acid biomarkers) was higher in peat exposed to ozone (1975 +/- 108 nmol g(-1) dw) than in peat of the control microcosms (1589 +/- 115 nmol g(-1) dw). The concentrations of organic acids in peat pore water showed a similar trend. Elevated ozone did not affect the shoot length or the structure of the sedge E. vaginatum leaves but it slightly increased the total number of sedge leaves towards the end of the experiment. Our results indicate that elevated ozone concentration enhances the general growth conditions of microbes in peat by increasing their substrate availability. However, the methane production did not reflect the increase in the concentration of organic acids, probably because hydrogenotrophic methane production dominated in the peat studied. Although, we used isolated peatland microcosms with limited size as study material, we did not find experimental factors that could have hampered the basic conclusions on the effects of ozone.