Diverse fen plant communities enhance carbon-related multifunctionality, but do not mitigate negative effects of drought

Bjorn J.M. Robroek*, Vincent E.J. Jassey, Boudewijn Beltman, Mariet Hefting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Global change, like droughts, can destabilize the carbon sink function of peatlands, either directly or indirectly through changes in plant community composition. While the effects of drought and plant community composition on individual carbon (C) related processes are well understood, their effect on multiple C-related processes simultaneously— multifunctionality—is poorly known. We studied the effect of drought on four C-related processes (net and gross CO2 exchange, methane fluxes, and dissolved organic carbon content) in a plant removal experiment. Plant functional type (PFT) removal (graminoids, herbs, Polytrichum spp., incl. combinations) negatively affected multifunctionality; most markedly when all PFTs were removed. Our results corroborate a negative drought effect on C-related multifunctionality. Drought reduced multifunctionality, and this reduction was again largest when all PFTs were removed. Our data further indicate that much of these negative drought effects were carried over and maintained from the initial removal treatment. These results suggest that while a high diversity in plant functional types is associated to high C-related multifunctionality, plant community assembly does not drive the ability of peatlands to withstand the negative impacts of drought on multifunctionality. Hence, to safeguard the carbon cycling function in intact peatlands, the effects of climate change on the functional composition of the peatland plant community needs to be minimized.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170449
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2017


  • Carbon cycling
  • Ecosystem functions
  • Global change
  • Multiple functions
  • Plant functional types
  • Wetlands


Dive into the research topics of 'Diverse fen plant communities enhance carbon-related multifunctionality, but do not mitigate negative effects of drought'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this