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Wilson L.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.,LIFE ABBW Project | Holden J.,University of Leeds | Johnstone I.,RSPB | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Hydrology | Year: 2011

Organic carbon solution and transport processes which occur during periods of heavy rainfall and periods or little or no rainfall, can exert a significant control over a systems' annual organic carbon budget. In addition, either or both extremes can be key contributors to contaminant release, water discolouration, flood risk or vegetation growth. Although there is an increasing body of work studying hydrological responses to peatland restoration, there are very little available data on the performance of restored peatlands during these key periods. This study builds on previous work from an upland peatland in Wales that has been restored through drain-blocking, and presents evidence from a landscape scale experimental study at the site. A comparison of sampling scales within the study demonstrates the necessity of larger spatial scales, in combination with high resolution datasets, in assessing catchment level responses. Our results suggest that drain blocking leads to higher and more stable water tables that are able to better resist drought periods, and thus lead to more stable discharge from the system. The shallower water tables and pooling in drains also appear to reduce the production and transport of fluvial organic carbon, and thus less organic material is available to be released as during peak flow or dry periods. Despite restoration apparently reducing the available water storage within the peat, the increase in overland flow and in pooling within blocked drains appears to have led to a less flashy system. Peak flow responses in both drains and upland streams are less severe, with more rainfall being retained within the bog. We suggest that restoration leads to a more buffered system, with more moderate responses to extreme events, and reduced release of both dissolved and particulate organic carbon. We discuss the implications of this for fluxes of fluvial organic carbon and sediment loss. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. Source


Wilson L.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.M.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.M.,SOI Ltd | Johnstone I.,RSPB
Biological Conservation | Year: 2011

There has been increasing interest in potential benefits to be gained by restoring damaged peatlands, with the majority of funding currently being driven by the recovery of protected habitats. However, few data are available linking vegetation community declines with peatland drainage, and so the potential for recovery remains difficult to predict. Surprisingly, there is a similar paucity of research demonstrating the extent of drainage impacts on grazing conditions for livestock, despite this being a priority amongst land managers. We attempt to address these two knowledge gaps, first by investigating whether ditches in blanket bog habitat have improved or increased grazing for sheep, and second by assessing the impact of ditches on the condition of vegetation communities. At an extensively drained upland blanket bog in Wales, currently undergoing ditch blocking restoration, we collected vegetation and sheep occurrence data across five catchments and over 2. years. We present evidence that drained areas had remained relatively wet and were less preferred by sheep. Furthermore, our results show that while sheep preferred graminoid-rich areas, drainage did not increase the abundance of this species group. Drainage at the site has, however, resulted in some degradation in blanket bog vegetation adjacent to ditches; although at the landscape scale, historic high grazing levels appear to explain much of the current poor ecological condition of the site. We conclude that drain-blocking restoration should not reduce sheep grazing conditions beyond their current relatively poor state, and thus in this respect may not represent a threat to hill farming productivity. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. Source


Wilson L.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.,SOI Ltd | Holden J.,University of Leeds | And 4 more authors.
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2011

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. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. Source


Wilson L.,LIFE ABBW Project | Wilson J.,LIFE ABBW Project | Holden J.,University of Leeds | Johnstone I.,RSPB | And 2 more authors.
Journal of Hydrology | Year: 2010

Peatland practitioners and scientists have increasingly recognised the damage resulting from various management methods, and the need to restore peatlands to achieve several potential benefits. Many of the hoped-for benefits of peatland restoration, such as Carbon storage, biodiversity conservation and water quality improvements, are thought to depend on a reinstatement of high water tables that had been reduced by drainage. Despite the current emphasis on restoring drained peatlands, many of the predicted responses to restoration are still not adequately proven and the mechanisms behind them still uncertain. This study reports on water table and discharge responses to drain blocking restoration of a degraded Welsh upland blanket bog. Restoration work and monitoring were designed to permit a novel catchment scale control-intervention experimental design. An information theoretic approach to examining the data provided evidence of increases in water retention and water tables within the bog after restoration. But the study also demonstrated the importance of small and large scale topography in determining the degree of these responses. The increases in water storage after restoration produced lower discharge rates observable at the level of both drains and hill streams; as well as greater water table stability, reduction in peak flows and increases in water residency after rainfall. Crucially, this study showed strong catchment scale differences in response, and a very gradual recovery of water tables, both of which highlight the need for more studies to be carried out at the landscape scale and over longer time periods. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. Source

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