Plant and Soil

, Volume 397, Issue 1–2, pp 371–386 | Cite as

Understanding drivers of peatland extracellular enzyme activity in the PEATcosm experiment: mixed evidence for enzymic latch hypothesis

  • Karl J. Romanowicz
  • Evan S. Kane
  • Lynette R. Potvin
  • Aleta L. Daniels
  • Randall K. Kolka
  • Erik A. Lilleskov
Regular Article



Our objective was to assess the impacts of water table position and plant functional groups on peatland extracellular enzyme activity (EEA) framed within the context of the enzymic latch hypothesis.


We utilized a full factorial experiment with 2 water table (WT) treatments (high and low) and 3 plant functional groups (PFG: Ericaceae, sedge, Ericaceae and sedge unmanipulated) in twenty-four 1 m3 intact peatland mesocosms. We measured bulk peat and porewater phase oxidative and hydrolytic enzyme activities monthly from June - October 2012. We also measured physical and porewater chemical constituents in tandem to analyze environmental influences on seasonal enzyme activities.


No PFG effects on EEA with WT affecting only acid-phosphatase activity in porewater. Strong seasonal dynamics in EEAs overshadowed our manipulations. Analyses indicated phenolic concentrations were influenced by peat redox potential and negatively correlated with phenol oxidase activity as expected from enzymic latch hypothesis. However, no hydrolytic EEA was influenced by total phenolics, but driven largely by seasonal changes in soil temperature and increasing DOC concentrations in porewater.


Our results suggest no support for final step in enzymic latch, in which phenolics are posited to regulate hydrolytic EEAs. Mechanisms regulating seasonal influences remain to be elucidated.


Peat Porewater Climate change Extracellular enzyme Ericaceae Sedge 



This research was supported primarily by the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station Climate Change Program and the National Science Foundation (DEB-1146149). The authors would like to thank Carley J. Kratz, L. Jamie Lamit, and John A. Hribljan for their helpful contributions towards this work. We would also like to thank Todd Ontl, Magdalena Wiedermann, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11104_2015_2746_MOESM1_ESM.docx (199 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 198 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karl J. Romanowicz
    • 1
    • 4
  • Evan S. Kane
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lynette R. Potvin
    • 2
  • Aleta L. Daniels
    • 1
  • Randall K. Kolka
    • 3
  • Erik A. Lilleskov
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Forest Resources and Environmental ScienceMichigan Technological UniversityHoughtonUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest Service, Northern Research StationHoughtonUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest Service, Northern Research StationGrand RapidsUSA
  4. 4.School of Natural Resources & EnvironmentUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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