Statistical hydrology for evaluating peatland water table sensitivity to simple environmental variables and climate changes application to the mid-latitude/altitude Frasne peatland (Jura Mountains, France)

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Feb 1;754:141931. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141931. Epub 2020 Aug 25.


Peatlands are habitats for a range of fragile flora and fauna species. Their eco-physicochemical characteristics make them as outstanding global carbon and water storage systems. These ecosystems occupy 3% of the worldwide emerged land surface but represent 30% of the global organic soil carbon and 10% of the global fresh water volumes. In such systems, carbon speciation depends to a large extent on specific redox conditions which are mainly governed by the depth of the water table. Hence, understanding their hydrological variability, that conditions both their ecological and biogeochemical functions, is crucial for their management, especially when anticipating their future evolution under climate change. This study illustrates how long-term monitoring of basic hydro-meteorological parameters combined with statistical modeling can be used as a tool to evaluate i) the horizontal (type of peat), ii) vertical (acrotelm/catotelm continuum) and iii) future hydrological variability. Using cross-correlations between meteorological data (precipitation, potential evapotranspiration) and water table depth (WTD), we primarily highlight the spatial heterogeneity of hydrological reactivity across the Sphagnum-dominated Frasne peatland (French Jura Mountain). Then, a multiple linear regression model allows performing hydrological projections until 2100, according to regionalized IPCC RCP4.5 and 8.5 scenarios. Although WTD remains stable during the first half of 21th century, seasonal trends beyond 2050 show lower WTD in winter and markedly greater WTD in summer. In particular, after 2050, more frequent droughts in summer and autumn should occur, increasing WTD. These projections are completed with risk evaluations for peatland droughts until 2100 that appear to be increasing especially for transition seasons, i.e. May-June and September-October. Comparing these trends with previous evaluations of phenol concentrations in water throughout the vegetative period, considered as a proxy of plant functioning intensity, highlights that these hydrological modifications during transitional seasons could be a great ecological perturbation, especially by affecting Sphagnum metabolism.

Keywords: Climate change; France; Jura Mountains; Peatland; Statistical modeling; Water table depth.