Departmental Research Projects
Publication detailsEvans, M., Warburton, J. & Yang, J. Eroding blanket peat catchments: Global and local implications of upland organic sediment budgets. Geomorphology. 2006;79:45-57.
- Publication type: Journal Article
- ISSN/ISBN: 0169-555X
- DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2005.09.015
- Keywords: Sediment budget; Sediment yield; Peat; Carbon flux; Erosion control
- Further publication details on publisher web site
- Durham Research Online (DRO) - may include full text
Author(s) from Durham
Globally, peatlands account for circa 50% of terrestrial carbon storage containing as much carbon as is present in the atmosphere. The uplands of the UK have an extensive cover of blanket peat but much of it is actively eroding. This paper presents a detailed organic sediment budget for a blanket peat catchment in the north Pennines and comparative data from a catchment in the southern Pennines. The catchments have total sediment yields (organic and mineral) of 44 and 267 t km− 2 a− 1 and organic sediment yields 31 and 195 t km− 2 a− 1, respectively. They represent two extremes of a spectrum of eroded peat catchments. It is demonstrated that the lower sediment yields in the north Pennines are associated with extensive natural revegetation of the catchment and consequent reductions in slope-channel linkage. Construction of a carbon budget for the north Pennine catchment demonstrates that particulate carbon losses associated with the fluvial suspended sediment load are the largest single carbon loss from the system. The system is currently close to carbon neutral but much higher carbon losses associated with actively eroding systems such as the south Pennine site would make these systems a major carbon source. The possibility that enhanced summer temperatures and winter storminess will accelerate erosion of upland mires means there is a risk that physical degradation of peatlands could become a significant positive feedback on global warming. Mitigation of these potential global effects will depend on local management informed by a clear understanding of peatland sediment dynamics. The sediment budget data here suggest that in gullied peatlands revegetation of gully floors is an effective control on sediment flux so that techniques such as gully blocking are likely to be effective approaches to erosion control.