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Tim Moore

Dept. of Geography
McGill University 
Room 626, Burnside Hall 
805 Sherbrooke St. W. 
Montreal, QC, H3A 0B9 
Tel: (514) 398-4961 
Fax:(514) 398-7437 

e-mail: tim.moore@mcgill.ca


Photo of Tim Moore

Research Themes:

Peatland biogeochemistry

Mer Bleue  (Fig. 1) was the eastern peatland within the Canadian Carbon Program (http://www.fluxnet-canada.ca) and an eddy covariance tower operated by Elyn Humphreys (Carleton University) and Peter Lafleur (Trent University) has measured CO2 exchange since 1998 providing an assessment of the seasonal and interannual variability and the influence of changes in climate and water table. Combination of CO2 exchange, CH4 flux and DOC export over 6 years provides an estimate of the interannual variability of the overall C flux in this system. The publications and theses of our Mer Bleue are listed at this link (Mer Bleue Publications and theses:).

Fig. 1. The Mer Bleue peatland in fall and the eddy covariance tower.

My work at Mer Bleue has involved studies of plant biomass and production and rates of decomposition of litter and peat, and CO2 and CH4 exchange from chambers covering the range of vegetation types from bog to beaver pond. Recent work involves the effect of beaver pond drainage at Mer Bleue on vegetation and CO2 and CH4 fluxes.

To evaluate the effect of nutrients on the bog, Jill Bubier (Mount Holyoke College) and I are conducting a long-term (18-year +) fertilization with N, P and K, and determining plant and CO2 flux response (Fig. 2). Added nutrients enhance shrub growth and shade out mosses, changing the ecosystem structure and CO2 exchange. The ecosystem converts from a sink to a source of CO2. Although there is an increased N concentration in shrub leaves and Sphagnum mosses in the fertilized plots, there is a weak response in leaf photosynthesis suggesting that N uptake is stored rather than being in a form enhancing photosynthesis. PhD student Meng Wang has observed that nutrient content in foliar tissues varies by species and treatment, with evidence of differential homeostasis between shrubs and mosses and  that nutrient resorption during senescence of shrub leaves is affected by the fertilization and varies among elements. Ecological stoichiometry suggests that the vegetation at Mer Bleue is mainly co-limited by N and P and analysis of peat cores suggests that N is buried along with C but there are mechanisms which keep the P recycling close to the surface. PhD student Tanja Zivkovic is establishing rates on N2 fixation at Mer Bleue, with moisture content and N:P ratio primary controls.

Fig. 2 The experimental fertilization plots at Mer Bleue.

In collaboration with John Riley, Julie Talbot (Université de Montreal) and Meng Wang and I have exhumed data contained in a 1980's inventory of peatlands in Ontario, which involved 400 cores and the collection and analysis of over 1500 individual peat samples. This has provided evidence of consistent stoichiometric patterns of C:N:P:K:Ca:Mg as plant tissues decompose and peat forms in the profile. As with Mer Bleue, large amounts of N are buried, whereas P is recycled, with differences among bogs, fens and swamps. We have also examined patterns of Hg and Pb concentration, which show variations in surface concentration from northwest to southeast Ontario, within which are embedded 'hotpots' associated with population centres and industrial activities, and are looking at the distribution of other elements such as As, Cu, Zn, Mn, Fe, Al and S.

Litter decomposition and ecological stoichiometry

Rates of litter decomposition in litter-bags over 5 or more years have been measured at a range of peatlands sites, in Canada, in New Zealand (Fig. 3) and North Carolina (Fig. 4) and this allows establishment of the range of controls (litter characteristics and environmental) on decomposition rate.




Fig. 3. Peatlands for litter decomposition studies, North Island, New Zealand.

Fig. 4. The pocosin peatlands, coastal North Carolina, used for litter decomposition studies, in collaboration with Duke University (Dr. Curt Richardson).

Work on forest litter decomposition also includes the CIDET (Canadian Intersite Decomposition Experiment) study in which 12 litter types were decomposed in litter-bags at 20 upland forest and 3 wetland sites across Canada, over a 12 year period. Patterns of decomposition rates and their climatic and litter tissue controls have been established.   Analysis of N and P dynamics of the litters across all sites shows a general pattern of retention or loss controlled by litter C:N and C:P ratios as well as the site characteristics, with an overall ‘Redfield Ratio’ of 427C:17N:1P when only 20% of the original litter C remained. Interestingly, this is different from the peat ‘Redfield Ratio’ of 1481C:55N:1P.

Restored peatlands

Near Rivière du Loup (QC) and Shippagan (NB), we have examined the effect of drainage and harvesting of peat moss on the C cycle and whether vegetation restoration practices can bring back the peat to C cycling function similar to that before the peat was disturbed (Fig. 5). The conclusion is that it may take several decades for this to occur. A life-cycle analysis of C in the peat harvesting industry showed the importance what happens to the peat after it has been marketed, and we are now examining end-user fate of the C in peat moss.
Figure 10

Fig. 5. Peatland restoration in eastern Quebec and New Brunswick.

Detection of graves

To aid in the detection of clandestine graves, Moshe Dalva and I have examined patterns of CO2, CH4 and N2O gas concentration in pore air and emission to the atmosphere in soils in an animal graveyard of Parc Safari Africain and at experimental pig graves at the National Research Council near Ottawa. Although CH4 was useful at Parc Safari because the soils were wet, in the dry soil at the pig graves N2O provided the best evidence for buried cadavers, and lasted for several years.  

Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in forests

DOC plays an important role in the biogeochemistry of many ecosystems, and we have examined controls on rates of DOC production and consumption and fluxes in upland forests and peatlands supported by BIOCAP and NSERC.

Soil carbon and land-use change

There is strong evidence in changes in soil organic carbon associated with changes in land use. In 2001 in Sardinilla, Panama, a large old pasture was converted to a native tree plantation by Catherine Potvin (Biology, McGill) in collaboration with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (Fig. 6). We established the soil organic carbon content of the pasture soils and resampled in 2011 and showed that the land-use change reduced the soil organic carbon mass in the surface layers. Carbon-13 allows an identification of the source of soil organic matter – pasture or trees. This loss, then, partially compensates for the increased carbon in plant biomass from pasture to plantation, and the site was resampled in 2017.

Figure 12

Fig. 6. The old pasture at Sardinilla, Panama, in 2001 and part of the native tree plantation, 2011.


Contact Information

Department of Geography
McGill University
805 Sherbrooke Street West
Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6
phone: (514) 398-4111 fax: (514) 398-7437

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Last updated 21/11/2011