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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Worrall, F., Reed, M., Warburton, J. & Burt, T. Carbon budget for a British upland peat catchment. The Science of the Total Environment. 2003;312:133-146.

Author(s) from Durham


This study describes the analysis of fluvial carbon flux from an upland peat catchment in the North Pennines. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC), pH, alkalinity and calcium were measured in weekly samples, with particulate organic carbon (POC) measured from the suspended sediment load from the stream outlet of an 11.4-km2 catchment. For calendar year 1999, regular monitoring of the catchment was supplemented with detailed quasi-continuous measurements of flow and stream temperature, and DOC for the months September through November. The measurements were used to calculate the annual flux of dissolved CO2, dissolved inorganic carbon, DOC and POC from the catchment and were combined with CO2 and CH4 gaseous exchanges calculated from previously published values and the observations of water table height within the peat. The study catchment represents a net sink of 15.4±11.9 gC/m2/yr. Carbon flows calculated for the study catchment are combined with values in the literature, using a Monte Carlo method, to estimate the carbon budget for British upland peat. For all British upland peat the calculation suggests a net carbon sink of between 0.15 and 0.29 MtC/yr. This is the first study to include a comprehensive study of the fluvial export of carbon within carbon budgets and shows the size of the peat carbon sink to be smaller than previous estimates, although sensitivity analysis shows that the primary productivity rather than fluvial carbon flux is a more important element in estimating the carbon budget in this regard.


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Department of Geography