Impacts of groundwater drainage on peatland subsidence and its ecological implications on an Atlantic raised bog

Shane Regan, Raymond Flynn, Laurence Gill, Owen Naughton, Paul Johnston

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31 Citations (Scopus)
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Field data of topography, water levels, and peat hydraulic conductivity collected over a 28‐year period have revealed the impacts of marginal drainage on uncut raised bog ecohydrology and its peat properties. Drainage of the regional groundwater body has induced changes in the hydraulic properties of deep peat, with peat compression decreasing hydraulic conductivity and storativity while simultaneously introducing localized secondary porosity and effective storage. Where peat has increased in hydraulic conductivity, there is a corresponding decline in vertical hydraulic gradients and significant localized increases in recharge to the underlying substrate. Repeated topographic surveys show intense localized areas of peat consolidation (>5%) where it is underlain by highly permeable (>10 m/day) glacial till deposits. More widely, continued subsidence (4–6 mm/year) of the bog surface has been measured over 900 m from the bog margin, resulting in the progressive loss of approximately 40% of actively growing raised bog since 1991. This loss has thus been shown to be attributable to changes in the underlying groundwater head due to deep‐cut drainage, rather than near‐surface peatland drainage. However, although reinstating regional hydrostatic pressures in order to restore this ombrotrophic peatland may control the rapid drainage through preferential flow pathways, this may not eliminate the ecological impacts resulting from changed surface morphology arising from subsidence. Hence, this longitudinal study provides new insights into the role that aquifer systems and groundwater bodies play in maintaining hydrogeological processes in ombrotrophic peatland systems, while highlighting the difficulty in ecological restoration where regional groundwater dependencies are significant.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Resources Research
Early online date29 Jul 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 29 Jul 2019


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