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CR 45:31-41 (2010)  -  DOI:

Impact of gully erosion on carbon sequestration in blanket peatlands

Martin Evans1,*, John Lindsay2

1Upland Environments Research Unit, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester M19 3PL, UK
2Department of Geography, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, Canada

ABSTRACT: Over 50% of UK soil carbon is stored in peatland systems and 75% of these peatlands are upland blanket bog. The upland blanket bogs of the UK have suffered severe erosion over the last millennium so that they are widely dissected by gully systems. Gully erosion entails primary removal of particulate carbon from the peatland system but also has secondary effects in that it enhances drainage and lowers water tables, potentially enhancing decomposition of surface peats. This paper exploits recent high resolution mapping of the gully erosion on the Bleaklow Plateau in the southern Pennines and existing data on peat growth rates in the area to assess the impact of gully erosion on peatland carbon balance and the relative importance of primary and secondary impacts of gullying on carbon sequestration. The results indicate that gully erosion during the last millennium has shifted the Bleaklow Plateau from being a net sink of carbon (–20.3 gC m–2 yr–1) to a net source (29.4 gC m–2 yr–1). The relative importance of gullying impacts can be expressed as follows: particulate organic carbon (POC) flux > change in gully net ecosystem exchange >> loss of gully margin carbon sequestration. The implication of these findings is that the magnitude of the potentially reversible impacts of gully erosion (reduced carbon fixation due to vegetation loss and ongoing erosional loss of POC) far exceed the effects associated with irreversible morphological change (enhanced peat decomposition in gully margin locations).

KEY WORDS: Blanket peat · Gully erosion · Carbon balance · Carbon sequestration

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Cite this article as: Evans M, Lindsay J (2010) Impact of gully erosion on carbon sequestration in blanket peatlands. Clim Res 45:31-41.

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