"Environment" research area

Addition of Low-Cost, Phenolic-Rich Biomass to Reduce CO2 Emissions and Phosphorus Leakage from Restored Peatlands

Primary Investigator - Chris LenhartPrimary Investigator: Christian Lenhart
Co-Investigators: Alexis Lipstein (Undergraduate Research Scholar)
Industry Partners: NA
Award Type: Undergraduate Research Scholar 

Problem: Drained peatlands emit carbon dioxide (CO2) from accelerated decomposition of organic matter. The biogeochemical changes in drained peat also convert phosphorus to more bioavailable forms, increasing leakage from peatlands and eutrophication in the peatland itself and downstream. Re-wetting peatlands can reduce these pollutants in the long-term but restored wetlands may be net sources of CO2 and phosphorus the first few years after restoration. 

Solution: Addition of low-cost, phenolic-rich biomass, in the form of spruce or tamarack wood chips, can suppress microbial activity, which drives organic matter decomposition in peatlands.  We'll place the wood chips in peatland meosocosms with different types of plant cover to assess the benefits for pollutant reduction.

Impact: Peatland restoration is being considered as a "natural climate solution" to help address climate change and improve water quality within peatlands and downstream (see the February 13 Star Tribune article). However, peatlands are often a source of CO2 and phosphorus when first restored.  Addition of low-cost wood chips which are readily available on-site, with revegetation could improve the pollutant reduction performance of newly restored peatlands and foster greater acceptance by land managers and promotion of the practice.