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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 Jun 2019

Research article | 14 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Biogeosciences (BG).

Modelling long-term blanket peatland development in eastern Scotland

Ward Swinnen1,2, Nils Broothaerts1, and Gert Verstraeten1 Ward Swinnen et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Science, KU Leuven, Leuven, 3000, Belgium
  • 2Research Foundation Flanders – FWO, Brussels, 1000, Belgium

Abstract. Blanket peatlands constitute a rare ecosystem on a global scale but is the most important peatland type on the British Isles. Most long-term peatland development models have focussed on peat bogs and high-latitude regions. Here, we present a spatially-explicit hillslope model to simulate long-term blanket peatland development along complex hillslope topographies. To calibrate the model, the peatland architecture was reconstructed along 56 hillslope transects in the headwaters of the river Dee (633 km2) in eastern Scotland, resulting in a dataset of 866 soil profile descriptions. The application of the calibrated model using local pollen-based land cover and regional climate reconstructions over the last 12,000 years shows that the early-Holocene peatland development is largely driven by a temperature increase. An increase in woodland cover only has a slight positive effect on the peat growth potential contradicting the hypothesis that blanket peatland developed as a response to deforestation. Both the hillslope measurements and the model simulations demonstrate that the blanket peatland cover in the study area is highly variable both in extent and peat thickness stressing the need for spatially distributed peatland modelling. At the landscape scale, blanket peatlands were an important atmospheric carbon sink during the period 9.5 ka–6 ka BP. However, during the last six thousand years, the blanket peatlands are in a state of dynamic equilibrium with minor changes in the carbon balance.

Ward Swinnen et al.
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Ward Swinnen et al.
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Short summary
In this study, a new model is presented, specifically designed to study the development and carbon storage of blanket peatlands since the last Ice Age. In the past, two main processes (declining forest cover and rising temperatures) have been prososed as drivers of the blanket peatland development on the British Isles. The simulations performed in this study support the temperature hypothesis for the blanket peatlands in the Cairngorms Mountains (Central Scotland).
In this study, a new model is presented, specifically designed to study the development and...