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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Post-drainage stand growth and peat mineralization impair water quality from forested peatlands

Nieminen, Mika; Hasselquist, Eliza Maher; Mosquera, Virginia; Ukonmaanaho, Liisa; Sallantaus, Tapani; Sarkkola, Sakari


Many recent studies have indicated upward trends in carbon and nutrient concentrations from drained peatland forests over time since their initial drainage, but the mechanisms behind these trends are still poorly understood. We gathered data on nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations discharged from 37 drained boreal peatland forests where we also had data on peat and tree stand characteristics. We found that tree stand volume and peat bulk density were positively correlated with the nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations discharged from particularly the deep-peated sites. We interpret these results to indicate that a plausible reason for the reported upward trends in nutrient concentrations is the maturing and growing of the tree stands over time since initial drainage and the consequent increasing evapotranspiration capacity, which results in lowered soil water levels and enhanced aerobic peat mineralization. We discuss how our results should be considered in the management of drained peatland forests.

Published in

Journal of Environmental Quality
2022, Volume: 51, number: 6, pages: 1211-1221
Publisher: WILEY