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Peatland carbon chemistry, amino acids and protein preservation in biogeochemically distinct ecohydrologic layers

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posted on 2024-07-03, 01:37 authored by AY Yusuf, Ewen SilvesterEwen Silvester, R Brkljaca, C Birnbaum, J Chapman, S Grover

Abstract: Peatlands play a significant role in global carbon and nitrogen cycles due to their carbon storage capabilities. However, there are key knowledge gaps in our understanding of how peatland hydrology influences the biogeochemical properties that drive peatland functioning and health. This study examines peatland hydrology and biogeochemical dynamics by exploring the variations in carbon chemistry, total amino acid (‘protein’) content and amino acid composition in the ecohydrologic layers: acrotelm, mesotelm and catotelm. The dynamic movement of the water table recorded half-hourly over 4 years was used to assist in identifying the boundaries between these layers. Peat amino acids were measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Carbon chemistry was analysed by solid state Cross Polarization Magic Angle Spinning (CPMAS) 13C Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, with the alkyl:O-alkyl ratio used to quantify the extent of decomposition. Our result revealed a strong positive correlation between the extent of decomposition and total protein content, indicating selective preservation of proteinaceous materials during peat decomposition. Each ecohydrologic layer displayed a distinct amino acid composition and carbon functional group composition. The acrotelm was relatively enriched in seven amino acids and two carbon functional groups. The mesotelm was relatively enriched in four amino acids, while the catotelm was relatively enriched in three amino acids and four carbon functional groups. The variations in amino acid composition reflect differences in microbial function and efficiency, while variations in carbon functional groups provide insights into long-term carbon sequestration in peatland. Collectively, these results provide more insights into nutrient cycling and changes in organic matter composition during peat decomposition. These findings demonstrate that peatland biogeochemistry is closely linked to ecohydrology and suggest that changes to water table dynamics could affect the ability of peatlands to sequester and store carbon in the future.


This research was financially supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Scholar-ship awarded to AY through RMIT University. Open access publishing facilitated by RMIT University, as part of the Wiley – RMIT University agreement via the Council of Australian University Librarians.


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European Journal of Soil Science











Rights Statement

© 2024 The Author(s). European Journal of Soil Science published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Society of Soil Science. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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