SEEK: Salford Environment for Expertise and Knowledge

Journal Article (Refereed)
March 2015

Peatland restoration: controls on sediment production and reductions in carbon and pollutant export

Shuttleworth, E & Evans, M G & Hutchinson, S M & Rothwell, J 2015, 'Peatland restoration: controls on sediment production and reductions in carbon and pollutant export', Earth Surface Processes, 40(4).


 Peatlands are an important store of soil carbon, and play a vital role in global carbon cycling, and when located in close proximity to urban and industrial areas, can also act as sinks of atmospherically deposited heavy metals. Large areas of the UK's blanket peat are significantly degraded and actively eroding which negatively impacts carbon and pollutant storage. The restoration of eroding UK peatlands is a major conservation concern, and over the last decade measures have been taken to try to control erosion and restore large areas of degraded peat. This study utilizes a sediment source fingerprinting approach to assess the effect of restoration practices on sediment production, and carbon and pollutant export in the Peak District National Park, southern Pennines (UK). Suspended sediment was collected using time integrated mass flux samplers (TIMS), deployed across three field areas which represent the surface conditions exhibited through an erosion-restoration cycle: (i) intact; (ii) actively eroding; and (iii) recently re-vegetated. Anthropogenic pollutants stored near the peat's surface have allowed material mobilized by sheet erosion to be distinguished from sediment eroded from gully walls. Re-vegetation of eroding gully systems is most effective at stabilizing interfluve surfaces, switching the locus of sediment production from contaminated surface peat to relatively ‘clean’ gully walls. The stabilization of eroding surfaces reduces particulate organic carbon (POC) and lead (Pb) fluxes by two orders of magnitude, to levels comparable with those of an intact peatland, thus maintaining this important carbon and pollutant store. The re-vegetation of gully floors also plays a key role in decoupling eroding surfaces from the fluvial system, and further reducing the flux of material. These findings indicate that the restoration practices have been effective over a relatively short timescale, and will help target and refine future restoration initiatives.


SEEK Members

External Authors

M. G. Evans

Emma Shuttleworth

James Rothwell

Publication Details

Journal Name
Earth Surface Processes