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The importance of landscape diversity for carbon fluxes at the landscape level: small‐scale heterogeneity matters

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Landscapes can be viewed as spatially heterogeneous areas encompassing terrestrial and aquatic domains. To date, most landscape carbon (C) fluxes have been estimated by accounting for terrestrial ecosystems, while aquatic ecosystems have been largely neglected. However, a robust assessment of C fluxes on the landscape scale requires the estimation of fluxes within and between both landscape components. Here, we compiled data from the literature on C fluxes across the air–water interface from various landscape components. We simulated C emissions and uptake for five different scenarios which represent a gradient of increasing spatial heterogeneity within a temperate young moraine landscape: (I) a homogeneous landscape with only cropland and large lakes; (II) separation of the terrestrial domain into cropland and forest; (III) further separation into cropland, forest, and grassland; (IV) additional division of the aquatic area into large lakes and peatlands; and (V) further separation of the aquatic area into large lakes, peatlands, running waters, and small water bodies These simulations suggest that C fluxes at the landscape scale might depend on spatial heterogeneity and landscape diversity, among other factors. When we consider spatial heterogeneity and diversity alone, small inland waters appear to play a pivotal and previously underestimated role in landscape greenhouse gas emissions that may be regarded as C hot spots. Approaches focusing on the landscape scale will also enable improved projections of ecosystems’ responses to perturbations, e.g., due to global change and anthropogenic activities, and evaluations of the specific role individual landscape components play in regional C fluxes. WIREs Water 2016, 3:601–617. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1147

The Quillow catchment (290 km2) in NE Germany: a 3D relief image derived from a high‐resolution digital elevation model (DEM1); blue to red: increase in elevation from 15 to 125 m a.s.l.; inset: Germany, Quillow catchment, simulated area, landscape segment with a high density of lakes and kettle holes.
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(a) Image of the moraine landscape in NE Germany. Rape field with several small water bodies (kettle holes) embedded in the cropland (Image courtesy: G. Verch). (b) Instrumented kettle hole near Rittgarten, Uckermark. The kettle hole is part of the longer‐term studies of the LandScales project (Image courtesy: Garabet Kazanjian).
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Mean estimated and CH4‐C fluxes of the moraine landscape in NE Germany for the five different scenarios given (a–e). C‐data based on the CH4‐C fluxes documented in Table S1. The estimates account for the relative areal coverage (GIS data) of the individual categories in the catchment. (f) The total flux of the entire landscape for the different scenarios.
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Mean estimated CO2‐C and fluxes of the moraine landscape in NE Germany for the five different scenarios given (a–e). C‐data based on the CO2‐C fluxes documented in Table S1. The estimates take the relative areal coverage (GIS data) of the individual categories in the catchment into account. (f) The total flux of the entire landscape for the different scenarios.
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Broad graphic representation of the land use scenarios S‐I to S‐V for the Quillow catchment based on the biotope mapping of the Federal States of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg‐Vorpommern, GIS data (Landesamt für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Geologie, 1994). Scenarios show an increase in diversity and resolution: S‐I forms a homogeneous landscape by using only cropland for the terrestrial domain and large lakes for the aquatic domain. S‐II is the terrestrial area divided into croplands and forest lands. S‐III is a further split of the terrestrial area into croplands, forest lands and grasslands. S‐IV includes the partitioning of the aquatic domain into large lakes and peatlands, and in S‐V, the aquatic area is further divided into large lakes, peatlands, rivers and small inland waters. For landscape compartment area percentages see Table . Peatlands are only considered drained because the area is known to host 95% of its peatlands in a drained state.
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