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Calcareous fens in Minnesota are spring-seepage peatlands with a distinctive flora of rare calciphilic species. Peat characteristics and groundwater geochemistry were determined for six calcareous fens in the Minnesota River Basin to better understand the physical structure and chemical processes associated with stands of rare vegetation. Onset of peat accumulation in three of the fens ranged from about 4,700 to 11,000 14C yrs BP and probably resulted from a combination of climate change and local hydrogeologic conditions. Most peat cores had a carbonate-bearing surface zone with greater than 10% carbonates (average 27%, dry wt basis), an underlying carbonate-depleted zone with 10% or less carbonates (average 4%), and a carbonate-bearing lower zone again with greater than 10% carbonates (average 42%). This carbonate zonation was hypothesized to result from the effect of water-table level on carbonate equilibria: carbonate precipitation occurs when the water table is above a critical level, and carbonate dissolution occurs when the water table is lower. Other processes that changed the major ion concentrations in upwelling groundwater include dilution by rain water, sulfate reduction or sulfide oxidation, and ion adsorption or exchange. Geochemical modeling indicated that average shallow water in the calcareous fens during the study period was groundwater mixed with about 6 to 13% rain water. Carbonate precipitation in the surface zone of calcareous fens could be decreased by a number of human activities, especially those that lower the water table. Such changes in shallow water geochemistry could alter the growing conditions that apparently sustain rare fen vegetation. ?? 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Additional Publication Details
Peat characteristics and groundwater geochemistry of calcareous fens in the Minnesota River Basin, U.S.A