Low evapotranspiration enhances the resilience of peatland carbon stocks to fire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Maxwell Curtis Lukenbach
  • Kelly Jean Hokanson
  • Chris Hopkinson
  • Kevin J. Devito
  • Richard Michael Petrone
  • Carl Mendoza
  • James Michael Waddington

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
  • Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta
  • Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta
  • Department of Geography, University of Lethbridge
  • Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo


Boreal peatlands may be vulnerable to projected changes in the wildfire regime under future climates. Extreme drying during the sensitive post-fire period may exceed peatland ecohydrological resilience, triggering long-term degradation of these globally significant carbon stocks. Despite these concerns, we show low peatland evapotranspiration at both the plot and landscape scale post-fire, in water-limited peatlands dominated by feather moss that are ubiquitous across continental western Canada. Low post-fire evapotranspiration enhance the resilience of carbon stocks in such peatlands to wildfire disturbance and reinforces their function as a regional source or water. Near-surface water repellency may provide an important, previously unexplored, regulator of peatland evapotranspiration that can induce low evapotranspiration in the initial post-fire years by restricting the supply of water to the peat surface.


Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Early online date8 Sep 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Sep 2017


  • peatland , wildfire , evapatranspiration , resilience , temperature , water repellency , hydrophobicity