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Ditch blocking, water chemistry and organic carbon flux: Evidence that blanket bog restoration reduces erosion and fluvial carbon loss

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • Lorraine Wilson
  • Jared Wilson
  • Joseph Holden
  • Ian Johnstone
  • Alona Armstrong
  • Michael Morris
Journal publication date1/05/2011
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Journal number11
Volume409
Number of pages9
Pages2010-2018
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The potential for restoration of peatlands to deliver benefits beyond habitat restoration is poorly understood. There may be impacts on discharge water quality, peat erosion, flow rates and flood risk, and nutrient fluxes. This study aimed to assess the impact of drain blocking, as a form of peatland restoration, on an upland blanket bog, by measuring water chemistry and colour, and loss of both dissolved (DOC) and particulate organic carbon (POC). The restoration work was designed to permit the collection of a robust experimental dataset over a landscape scale, with data covering up to 3 years pre-restoration and up to 3 years post-restoration. An information theoretic approach to data analyses provided evidence of a recovery of water chemistry towards more 'natural' conditions, and showed strong declines in the production of water colour. Drain blocking led to increases in the E4:E6 ratio, and declines in specific absorbance, suggesting that DOC released from blocked drains consisted of lighter, less humic and less decomposed carbon. Whilst concentrations of DOC showed slight increases in drains and streams after blocking, instantaneous yields of both DOC and POC declined markedly in streams over the first year post-restoration. Attempts were made to estimate total annual fluvial organic carbon fluxes for the study site, and although errors around these estimates remain considerable, there is strong evidence of a large reduction in aquatic organic carbon flux from the peatland following drain-blocking. Potential mechanisms for the observed changes in water chemistry and organic carbon release are discussed, and we highlight the need for more detailed information, from more sites, to better understand the full impacts of peatland restoration on carbon storage and release. (C) 2011 Elsevier BM. All rights reserved.