Restoration of afforested peatland: Immediate effects on aquatic carbon loss

Paul P.J. Gaffney, Mark H. Hancock, Mark A. Taggart, Roxane Andersen

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14 Citations (Scopus)
118 Downloads (Pure)


Peatland restoration is undertaken to bring back key peatland ecosystem services, including carbon storage. In the case of drained, afforested blanket peatlands, restoration through drain blocking and tree removal may impact upon aquatic carbon concentrations and export, which needs to be accounted for when considering the carbon benefits of restoration. This study investigated concentrations and export of aquatic carbon from a drained, afforested blanket bog catchment, where 12% of the catchment underwent drain blocking and conifer removal (termed ‘forest-to-bog’ restoration), and from two control catchments: one in open bog and one that remained afforested. Using a before-after-control-impact (BACI) design, we found no significant increases in concentrations or export of aquatic carbon (DOC, POC or DIC) in the first year following forest-to-bog restoration (i.e. across the whole post-restoration period). However, increased DOC concentrations were observed in the first summer (2015) post-restoration, and seasonally increased DOC export was noted during storm events in the autumn of the same year. The lack of significant effects of forest-to-bog restoration on aquatic carbon export may be a consequence of the small proportion of the catchment (12%) undergoing management. In terms of management, the removal of more of the forestry residues (i.e., brash) may help to mitigate effects on aquatic carbon, by removing a potential DOC and POC source. Restoring small areas at a time (≤12%) should result in minimal aquatic carbon export issues, in contexts similar to the current study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number 140594
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date30 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jun 2020


  • Drain blocking
  • Dissolved organic carbon (DOC)
  • Water quality
  • Conifer harvesting
  • Blanket bog
  • Flow country


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