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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 13 Mar 2019

Research article | 13 Mar 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Assessing the peatland hummock-hollow classification framework using high-resolution elevation models: Implications for appropriate complexity ecosystem modelling

Paul A. Moore1, Maxwell Lukenbach1, Dan K. Thompson2, Nick Kettridge3, Gustaf Granath4, and James M. Waddington1 Paul A. Moore et al.
  • 1School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON, L8S 4K1, Canada
  • 2Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada, Edmonton, Alberta, AB, T6H 3S5, Canada
  • 3School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
  • 4Department of Ecology and Genetics, Uppsala University, Norbyvägen 18D, 736 52 Uppsala, Sweden

Abstract. The hummock-hollow classification framework used to categorize peatland ecosystem microtopography is pervasive throughout peatland experimental designs and current peatland ecosystem modelling approaches. However, identifying what constitutes a representative hummock-hollow pair within a site and characterizing hummock-hollow variability within or between peatlands remains largely unassessed. Using structure-from-motion (SfM), high resolution digital elevation models (DEM) of hummock-hollow microtopography were used to: 1) examined how much area needs to be sampled to characterize site-level microtopographic variation; and 2) examine the potential role of microtopographic shape/structure on biogeochemical fluxes using data from 9 norther peatlands. To capture 95 % of site-level microtopographic variability, on average an aggregate sampling area of 32 m2 composed of ten randomly located plots with vegetation removed was required. We further present non-destructive transect-based results as an alternative to the SfM approach. Microtopography at the plot-level was often found to be non-bimodal, as assessed using a Gaussian mixture model (GMM). Our findings suggest that the non-bimodal distribution of microtopography at the plot-level may result in an under-sampling of intermediate topographic position. Extended to the modelling domain, an under-representation of intermediate microtopographic positions is shown to lead to large flux biases over a wide range of water table positions for ecosystem processes which are non-linearly related to water and energy availability at the moss surface. A range of tools examined herein can be used to easily parameterize peatland models, from GMMs used as simple transfer functions, to spatially explicit fractal landscapes based on simple power law relations between microtopographic variability and scale.

Paul A. Moore et al.
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Paul A. Moore et al.
Paul A. Moore et al.
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Short summary
Using very high resolution digital elevation models (DEM), we assessed the basic structure and microtopographic variability of hummock-hollow plots at boreal and hemi-boreal sites primarily in North America. Using a simple model of peatland biogeochemical function, our results suggest that both surface heating and moss productivity may not be adequately resolved in models which only consider idealized hummock-hollow units.
Using very high resolution digital elevation models (DEM), we assessed the basic structure and...