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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

Abstract

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.

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Department of Geography