Use of Surface Motion Characteristics Determined by InSAR to Assess Peatland Condition

Lubna Alshammari, Doreen S. Boyd, Andrew Sowter, Chris Marshall, Roxane Andersen, Peter Gilbert, Stuart Marsh, David J. Large

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Peatland surface motion is a key property of peatland that relates to condition. However, field‐based techniques to measure surface motion are not cost‐effective over large areas and long time periods. An alternative method that can quantify peatland surface motion over large areas is interferometric synthetic aperture radar. Although field validation of the accuracy of this method is difficult, the value of InSAR as a means of quantifying peat condition can be tested. To achieve this the characteristics of InSAR time series measured over an18‐month period at 22 peatland sites in the Flow Country northern Scotland were compared to site condition assessment based on plant functional type and site management history. Sites in good condition dominated by Sphagnum display long‐term stability or growth and a seasonal cycle with maximum uplift and subsidence in Aug‐Nov and April‐June respectively. Drier and partially drained sites dominated by shrubs display long‐term subsidence with maximum uplift and subsidence in July‐Oct and Feb‐June respectively. Heavily degraded sites with large bare peat extent display subsidence with no distinct seasonal oscillations. Seasonal oscillation in surface motion at sites with a dominant non‐vascular plant community is interpreted as resulting from changes in seasonal evaporative demand. On sites with extensive vascular plants cover and falling water table, surface oscillations are interpreted as representing sustained drawdown during the growing season and subsequent recharge in late winter. This study highlights the potential to use InSAR to characterize peatland condition and provide a new view of the surface dynamics of peatland landscapes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2018JG004953
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences
Issue number1
Early online date26 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2020


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