TERRAPUB Geochemical Journal

Geochemical Journal, Vol. 34 (No. 3), pp. 237-245, 2000


Carbon-isotope ratios and carbon, nitrogen and sulfur abundances in flora and soil organic matter from a temperate-zone bog and marsh

Edward R. C. Hornibrook, Frederick J. Longstaffe, William S. Fyfe and Yvonne Bloom

Department of Earth Sciences, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5B7

(Received August 16, 1999; Accepted February 12, 2000)

Abstract: Stable carbon-isotope ratios (13C/12C) and the abundance of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur were measured in flora and soil organic matter from the Sifton Bog and Point Pelee Marsh, which are located in the temperate climatic zone of southwestern, Ontario, Canada. Characteristic bog vegetation contains less N and S than marsh flora; however, invasive species (e.g., Typha) at the Sifton Bog have N and S contents that are similar to vegetation from the Point Pelee Marsh. Flora from both wetlands have δ13C values that are similar and characteristic of vegetation possessing the C3 photosynthetic pathway. The only exception is Utricularia vulgaris L. at the Point Pelee Marsh, which is 13C-enriched (average δ13C = -18.4‰ range -18.8 to -17.6‰ probably because of CO2 limitation during growth. Organic matter from peat soils at each wetland exhibits a similar depth distribution of C:N ratios and δ13C values. The C:N ratio of soil organic matter decreases with depth, consistent with consumption of labile carbohydrates and fixation of nitrogen by soil microorganisms. Both C:N ratios and δ13C values stabilize at a shallow depth in soils at the Point Pelee Marsh, consistent with greater decay efficiency and less recalcitrant vegetation in marsh than in bog environments. Paleovegetational changes associated with a fen to bog succession also may have contributed to the more gradual and larger change in δ13C values and C:N ratios observed for soil organic matter at the Sifton Bog.

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