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Water table dynamics in undisturbed, drained and restored blanket peat

Holden, J., Wallage, Z.E., Lane, S.N., McDonald, A.T.
Journal of hydrology 2011 v.402 no.1-2 pp. 103-114
biogeochemical cycles, managers, monitoring, peat, peatlands, plant growth, probability, rain, runoff, storms, water table, England
Peatland water table depth is an important control on runoff production, plant growth and carbon cycling. Many peatlands have been drained but are now subject to activities that might lead to their restoration including the damming of artificial drains. This paper investigates water table dynamics on intact, drained and restored peatland slopes in a blanket peat in northern England using transects of automated water table recorders. Long-term (18month), seasonal and short-term (storm event) records are explored. The restored site had drains blocked 6years prior to monitoring commencing. The spatially-weighted mean water table depths over an 18month period were −5.8cm, −8.9cm and −11.5cm at the intact, restored and drained sites respectively. Most components of water table behaviour at the restored site, including depth exceedance probability curves, seasonality of water table variability, and water table responses to individual rainfall events were intermediate between that of the drained and intact sites. Responses also depended on location with respect to the drains. The results show that restoration of drained blanket peat is difficult and the water table dynamics may not function in the same way as those in undisturbed blanket peat even many years after management intervention. Further measurement of hydrological processes and water table responses to peatland restoration are required to inform land managers of the hydrological success of those projects.