We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Warburton, J. Wind-splash erosion of bare peat on UK upland moorlands. Catena. 2003;52:191-207.

Author(s) from Durham


Peat is a common land surface material in many countries of the world and is particularly important in upland regions of the UK. Peat landscapes represent an important land use for hill farming, water management, and shooting, and are a globally scarce resource. Wind is a fundamental characteristic of upland environments in the UK and has long been recognised as a significant factor in peat erosion. This paper presents the first results of a project that aims to determine the significance of wind action in the erosion of upland peat. Wind erosion monitoring is being undertaken at Moor House in the North Pennines on a 3-ha area of relatively flat, sparsely vegetated peat. Measurements using arrays of passive horizontal mass flux gauges (fixed orientation vertical slot gauges), together with a vertical array of mass flux samplers (directional), provide estimates of sediment flux. A micrometeorological station records local wind speed (four heights), wind direction, rainfall, soil moisture, and temperature conditions. For 1999 and 2000, the annual horizontal net erosion flux is 0.46 and 0.48 t ha−1, respectively. Results of detailed monitoring over a 10-month period demonstrate that the peat sediment flux collected in windward- and leeward-oriented sediment traps on 10 separate occasions is between 3 and 12 times greater in the windward-facing traps. The concentration of peat with height decays rapidly and the majority of the peat is transported close to the ground surface. Above 0.3 m, very little peat is found. Significant horizontal fluxes of peat occur in both wet and dry periods. This is evaluated using the local micrometeorological data to try and predict sediment yields. Correlations among time-averaged friction velocity measurements, surface conditions, and sediment flux are complex. Event-based measurements, as opposed to cumulative sediment yields, are required to resolve this. These results quantify for the first time the significance of wind action in the erosion of peat in a UK upland environment.


Anderson, P., Radford, E., 1994. Changes in vegetation following reduction in grazing pressure on the National
Trust’s Kinder Estate, Peak District, Derbyshire, England. Biological Conservation 69, 55– 63.
Arden-Clarke, C., Evans, R., 1993. Soil erosion and conservation in the United Kingdom. In: Pimentel, D. (Ed.),
World Soil Erosion and Conservation. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, pp. 193–215.
Atherden, M., 1992. Upland Britain—A Natural History. Manchester Univ. Press, Manchester.
Ball, D.F., Goodier, R., 1974. Ronas Hill, Shetland: a preliminary account of its ground pattern features resulting
from the action of frost and wind. In: Goodier, R. (Ed.), The Natural Environment of Shetland. Nature
Conservancy Council, Edinburgh, UK, pp. 89– 106.
Ballantyne, C.K., Harris, C., 1994. The Periglaciation of Great Britain. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.
Ballantyne, C.K., Whittington, G.W., 1987. Niveo-aeolian sand deposits on An Teallach, Wester Ross, Scotland.
Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: Earth Sciences 78, 51–63.
Barnes, F.A., 1963. Peat erosion in the southern Pennines: problems of interpretation. East Midland Geographer 3
(4), 215– 222.
Birse, E.L., 1980. Suggested amendments to the world soil classification to accommodate Scottish Aeolian and
mountain soils. Journal of Soil Science 31, 117–124.
Boardman, J., 1985. Field Guide to the Periglacial Landforms of Northern England. Quaternary Research Association,
Boardman, J., Evans, R., 1994. Soil erosion in Britain: a review. In: Ricksen, R.J. (Ed.), Conserving Soil
Resources—European Perspectives. CAB International, Wallingford, pp. 3 – 12.
Bower, M., 1960. The erosion of blanket peat in the southern Pennines. East Midland Geographer 13, 22– 33.
Bower, M.M., 1961. The distribution of erosion in blanket peat bogs in the Pennines. Transactions of the Institute
of British Geographers 29, 17– 30.
Bradshaw, R., McGee, E., 1988. The extent and time-course of mountain blanket peat erosion in Ireland. New
Phytologist 108 (2), 219– 224.
Chappell, A., Warren, A., 2002. Spatial scales of 137Cs-derived soil flux by wind in a 25 km2 arable area of
eastern England. Catena 52, 209–234 (this issue).
de Lima, J.L.M.P., 1989. Raindrop splash anisotropy: slope, wind and overland flow velocity effects. Soil
Technology 2, 71– 78.
de Lima, J.L.M.P., van Dijk, P.M., Spaan, W.P., 1993. Splash-saltation transport under wind driven rain. Soil
Technology 5, 151–166.
Francis, I., 1990. Blanket peat erosion in a Mid-Wales catchment during two drought years. Earth Surface
Processes and Landforms 15 (5), 445– 456.
Fryear, D.W., 1986. A field dust sampler. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 41 (2), 117– 120.
Fryear, D.W., Stout, J.E., Hagen, L.J., Vories, E.D., 1991. Wind erosion: field measurement and analysis.
Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers 34 (1), 155– 160.
Garnett, M., Adamson, J.K., 1997. Blanket mire monitoring and research at Moor House National Nature
Reserve. In: Tallis, J.H., Meade, R., Hulme, P.D. (Eds.), Blanket Mire Degradation: Causes and Consequences.
Proceedings of the Mire Research Group of the British Ecological Society, Aberdeen, pp. 116– 117.
Goodier, R., Ball, D.F., 1975. Ward Hill, Hoy, Orkney: patterned ground features and their origins. In: Goodier,
R. (Ed.), The Natural Environment of Orkney. Nature Conservancy Council, Edinburgh, UK, pp. 47– 56.
Goossens, D., Offer, Z., London, G., 2000. Wind tunnel and field calibration of five Aeolian sand traps. Geomorphology
35, 233– 252.
Grieve, I.C., Hipkin, J.A., Davidson, D.A., 1994. Soil erosion sensitivity in upland Scotland. Scottish National
Heritage Research Survey and Monitoring Report No. 24.
Hall, D.J., Upton, S.L., Marsland, G.W., 1994. Designs for a deposition gauge and a flux gauge for monitoring
ambient dust. Atmospheric Environment 28 (18), 2963– 2979.
Johnson, G.A.L., Dunham, K.C., 1963. The Geology of Moor House. Monographs of the Nature Conservancy
Council Number Two. HMSO, London.
Kinako, P.D.S., Gimingham, C.H., 1980. Heather burning and soil erosion on upland heaths in Scotland. Journal
of Environmental Management 10 (3), 277–284.
Labadz, J.C., Burt, T.P., Potter, A.W.R., 1990. Sediment yield and delivery in the blanket peat moorlands of the
southern Pennines. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 16, 255– 271.
Livingstone, I., Warren, A., 1996. Aeolian Geomorphology. Longman, Harlow.
Mackay, A.W., 1997. Peat erosion: some implications for conservation and management of blanket mires and
heather moorland in the UK. In: Parkyn, L., Stoneman, R.E., Ingram, H.A.P. (Eds.), Conserving Peatlands.
CAB International, Wallingford, pp. 82–87.
Manley, G., 1942. Meteorological observations on Great Dunn Fell, a mountain station in northern England.
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 68, 151– 165.
Manley, G., 1943. Further climatological averages from the northern Pennines, with a note on topographical
effects. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 69, 251– 261.
Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, 1993. Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Soil.
MAFF Publications, London.
Moeyersons, J., 1983. Measurements of splash-saltation fluxes under oblique rain. In: Deploy, J. (Ed.), Rainfall
Simulation, Runoff and Soil Erosion. Catena Supplement, vol. 4, pp. 19– 31.
Morgan, R.P.C., 1980. Soil erosion and conservation in Britain. Progress in Physical Geography 4, 24– 47.
Pepin, N.C., 1997. Scenarios of future climate change: effect on frost occurrence and severity in the Maritime
Uplands of Northern England. Geografiska Annaler 79A (1–2), 121–137.
Pollard, E., Miller, A., 1968. Wind erosion in the East Anglian Fens. Weather 23, 415– 417.
Pye, K., Paine, A.D.M., 1983. Nature and source of Aeolian deposits near the summit of Ben Arkle, Northwest
Scotland. Geologie en Mijnbouw 63, 13– 18.
Radley, J., 1962. Peat erosion on the high moors of Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. East Midland Geographer 5
(17), 40– 50.
Radley, J., 1965. Significance of major moorland fires. Nature 205, 1254– 1259.
Radley, J., Simms, C., 1967. Wind erosion in east Yorkshire. Nature 216, 20– 22.
Ralph, M.O., Hall, D.J., 1989. Performance of the British standard directional dust gauge. Proceedings of the
Aerosol Society’s 3rd Annual Conference, West Bromich, UK, March 20–22.
Robinson, D.N., 1968. Soil erosion by wind in Lincolnshire, March 1968. East Midland Geographer 4 (30),
351– 362.
Selkirk, J.M., Saffinga, L.J., 1999. Wind and water erosion of a peat and sand area on Subantarctic Macquarie
Island. Arctic and Alpine Research 31 (4), 412–420.
Smithson, P.A., 1985. The present climate of the Northern Pennines. In: Boardman, J. (Ed.), Field Guide to the
Periglacial Landforms of Northern England. Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp. 1 –3.
Stout, J.E., Fryear, D.W., 1989. Performance of a windblown-particle sampler. Transactions of the ASAE 36 (6),
Tallis, J.H., 1985. Mass movement and erosion of a Southern Pennine blanket peat. Journal of Ecology 73,
283– 315.
Tallis, J.H., 1987. Fire and flood at Holme Moss: erosion processes in an upland blanket mire. Journal of Ecology
75, 1099– 1129.
Tallis, J.H., 1997. Peat erosion in the Pennines: the badlands of Britain. The Macauley Land Use Research
Institute, Aberdeen, UK. Biologist 44 (1), 277– 279.
Tallis, J.H., 1998. Growth and degradation of British and Irish blanket mires. Environmental Reviews 6, 81– 122.
Tallis, J.H., Meade, R., Hulme, P.D. (Eds.), 1997. Blanket Mire Degradation: Causes and Consequences. Proceedings
of the Mire Research Group of the British Ecological Society, Aberdeen.
Tomlinson, R.W., 1981. The erosion of peat in the uplands of Northern Ireland. Irish Geography 14, 51–64.
Wilkinson, B., Broughton, W., Parker-Sutton, J., 1969. Survey of wind erosion on sandy soils in the Eats Midlands.
Experimental Husbandry 18, 53– 59.
Wilson, S.J., Cooke, R.U., 1980. Wind erosion. In: Kirkby, M.J., Morgan, R.P.C. (Eds.), Soil Erosion. Wiley,
Chichester, pp. 217– 251.

Department of Geography