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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Professor Fred Worrall

Clay, G.D. & Worrall, F. (2015). Carbon stocks and carbon fluxes from a 10-year prescribed burning chronosequence on a UK blanket peat. Soil Use and Management 31(1): 39-51.

Author(s) from Durham


Prescribed burning is a common land management technique in many areas of the UK uplands. However, concern has been expressed at the impact of this management practice on carbon stocks and fluxes found in the carbon-rich peat soils that underlie many of these areas. This study measured both carbon stocks and carbon fluxes from a chronosequence of prescribed burn sites in northern England. A range of carbon parameters were measured including above ground biomass and carbon stocks; net ecosystem exchange (NEE), net ecosystem respiration (Reco) and photosynthesis (Pg) from closed chamber methods; and particulate organic carbon (POC). Analysis of the CO2 data showed that burning was a significant factor in measured CO2 readings but that other factors such as month of sampling explained a greater proportion of the variation in the data. Carbon budget results showed that whereas all the plots were net sources of carbon, the most recent burn scars were smaller sources of carbon compared with the older burn scars, suggesting that burning of Calluna-dominated landscapes leads to an ‘avoided loss’ of carbon. However, this management intervention did not lead to a transition to a carbon sink and that for carbon purposes, active peat-forming conditions are desirable.