Response of testate amoeba assemblages to peatland drain blocking

Callum R. C. Evans*, Donal J. Mullan, Helen M. Roe, Patricia M. Fox, Simon Gray, Graeme T. Swindles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Peatlands represent globally important habitats and carbon stores. However, human impacts and climate change leave peatlands with a substantial management challenge. Degradation of peatland habitats and their hydrological integrity is increasingly counteracted through the rehabilitation of peatlands including re-wetting and drain blocking. Research into how such management interventions affect peatland microbial assemblages is limited. Here, we investigate the response of testate amoebae (established unicellular amoeboid protist indicators of hydrological conditions in peatlands) to drain blocking on three small lowland raised bogs in Northern Ireland, UK. We sampled Sphagnum adjacent to areas of focused flow near sites of damming in addition to control sites away from dam blocking. These restoration measures show complex but meaningful results after restoration. We observe several key developments following dam blocking: (i) species diversity increases; (ii) unambiguous wet indicator taxa appear in increasing abundance at dammed sites; (iii) and transfer-function reconstructed water-table depths show wetter conditions in the dammed sites. These findings imply wetter conditions after restoration, where routine monitoring presented no clear trend in water-table depths. We found no statistically significant assemblage-level response to experimental or environmental variables, which may be related to antecedent conditions and significant periods of drought during the study period. Thus, caution is advised when utilising testate amoebae for bioindication until their assemblage-level response to restoration is better understood. Nevertheless, this study emphasises the potential of an indicator-taxa based approach to applying testate amoebae as contemporary bioindicators of peatland restoration—particularly on short-term timescales immediately following restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalWetlands Ecology and Management
Early online date22 Sept 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 22 Sept 2023

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