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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 5, p. 1764-1778
    Received: June 2, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): j.holden@leeds.ac.uk
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Impact of Land Drainage on Peatland Hydrology

  1. J. Holden *a,
  2. M. G. Evansb,
  3. T. P. Burtc and
  4. M. Hortona
  1. a School of Geography, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK
    b Upland Environments Research Unit, The School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Mansfield Cooper Building, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
    c Department of Geography, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK


There is a long history of drainage of blanket peat but few studies of the long-term hydrological impact of drainage. This paper aims to test differences in runoff production processes between intact and drained blanket peat catchments and determine whether there have been any long-term changes in stream flow since drainage occurred. Hillslope runoff processes and stream discharge were measured in four blanket peat catchments. Two catchments were drained with open-cut ditches in the 1950s. Ditching originally resulted in shorter lag times and flashier storm hydrographs but no change in the annual catchment runoff efficiency. In the period between 2002 and 2004, the hydrographs in the drained catchments, while still flashy, were less sensitive to rainfall than in the 1950s and the runoff efficiency had significantly increased. Drains resulted in a distinctive spatial pattern of runoff production across the slopes. Overland flow was significantly lower in the drained catchments where throughflow was more dominant. In the intact peatlands, matrix throughflow produced by peat layers below 10 cm was rare and produced <1% of the runoff. However, in drained peatlands, matrix throughflow in deeper peat layers was common and provided around 23% of the runoff from gauged plots. Macropore flow, the density of soil piping, and pipeflow were significantly greater in drained peatlands than in intact basins. Gradual changes to peat structure could explain the long-term changes in river flow, which are in addition to those occurring in the immediate aftermath of peatland drainage.

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Copyright © 2006. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA