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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-302
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2019-302
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 16 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 16 Sep 2019

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

Microtopography is a fundamental organizing structure in black ash wetlands

Jacob S. Diamond1, Daniel L. McLaughlin2, Robert A. Slesak3, and Atticus Stovall4 Jacob S. Diamond et al.
  • 1Quantitative Hydro-Ecology Lab, RiverLy, Irstea, Lyon, France
  • 2School of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, 24060, USA
  • 3Minnesota Forest Resources Council, St. Paul, 55108, USA
  • 4NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, 20771, USA

Abstract. All wetland ecosystems are controlled by water table and soil saturation dynamics, so any local scale deviation in soil elevation represents variability in this primary control. Wetland microtopography is the structured variability in soil elevation, and is typically categorized into a binary classification of local high points (hummocks) and local low points (hollows). Although the influence of microtopography on vegetation composition and biogeochemical processes has received attention in wetlands around the globe, its role in forested wetlands is still poorly understood. We studied relationships among microtopography on understory vegetation communities, tree biomass, and soil chemistry in 10 black ash (Fraxinus nigra Marshall) wetlands in northern Minnesota, U.S.A. To do so, we combined a 1-cm resolution surface elevation model generated from terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) with co-located water table, vegetation, and soil measurements. We observed that microtopography was an important structural element across sites, where hummocks were loci of greater species richness, greater midstory and canopy basal area, and higher soil concentrations of chloride, phosphorus, and base cations. In contrast, hollows were associated with higher soil nitrate and sulfate concentrations. We also found that the effect of microtopography on vegetation and soils was greater at wetter sites than at drier sites, suggesting that distance to mean water table is a primary determinant of wetland biogeochemistry. These findings highlight clear controls of mictopography on vegetation and soil distributions, while also supporting the notion that microtopography arises from feedbacks that concentrate biomass, soil nutrients, and productivity on microsite highs, especially in otherwise wet conditions. We therefore conclude that microtopography is a fundamental organizing structure in black ash wetlands.

Jacob S. Diamond et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Jacob S. Diamond et al.
Jacob S. Diamond et al.
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Short summary
Many wetland systems exhibit lumpy, or uneven, soil surfaces where higher points are called hummocks and lower points are called hollows. We found that while hummocks extended only ~20 cm above hollow surfaces, they could exhibit very different plant communities, plant growth, and soil properties. Differences between hummocks and hollows were the greatest in wetter sites, supporting the hypothesis that plants create and maintain their own hummocks in response to saturated soil conditions.
Many wetland systems exhibit lumpy, or uneven, soil surfaces where higher points are called...
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