Data from: Assessment of soil carbon sequestration or losses from drained short pocosins located in Hyde County, NC, during the years 2020 and 2021
Peatlands drained for agriculture or forestry are susceptible to the rapid release of greenhouse gases (GHG) through enhanced microbial decomposition and increased frequency of deep peat fires. We present evidence that rewetting drained subtropical wooded peatlands (STWPs) along the southeastern USA coast, primarily pocosin bogs, could prevent significant carbon (C) losses. To quantify GHG emissions and storage from drained and rewetted pocosin we used eddy covariance techniques, the first such estimates that have been applied to this major bog type, on a private drained (PD) site supplemented by static chamber measurements at PD and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Net ecosystem exchange (NEE) measurements showed loss was 21.2 Mg CO2 ha−1 yr−1 (1 Mg = 106 g) in the drained pocosin. Under a rewetted scenario, where the annual mean water table depth (WTD) decreased from 60 cm to 30 cm, the C loss was projected to fall to 2 Mg CO2 ha−1 yr−1, a 94% reduction. If the WTD was 20 cm, the peatlands became a net carbon sink (−3.3 Mg CO2 ha−1 yr−1). Hence, net C reductions could reach 24.5 Mg CO2 ha−1 yr−1, and when scaled up to the 4,000-ha PD site nearly 100,000 Mg CO2 yr−1 of creditable C could be amassed. We conservatively estimate among the 0.75 million ha of southeastern STWPs, between 450 and 770 km2 could be rewet, reducing annual GHG emissions by 0.96 to 1.6 Tg (1 Tg = 1012 g) of CO2, through suppressed microbial decomposition and 1.7 to 2.8 Tg via fire prevention, respectively. Despite covering <0.01% of USA land area, rewetting drained pocosin can potentially provide 2.4% of the annual CO2 nationwide reduction target of 0.18 Pg (1 Pg = 1015 g). Suggesting pocosin restoration can contribute disproportionately to the USA goal of achieving net-zero emission by 2050.