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45 years of non-stationary hydrology over a forest plantation growth cycle, Coalburn catchment, Northern England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stephen Birkinshaw, Dr James Bathurst



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


The Coalburn research catchment (1.5 km2) in Kielder Forest, Northern England, is a long-term project tostudy the effect of upland afforestation on hydrology. There is now a unique 45-year record; making itBritain’s longest running forest hydrology research catchment. The site was instrumented in 1967,ploughed and planted in 1972/73 and the trees have now reached maturity. Hourly meteorological datahave been measured since 1993 and these have enabled hydrological simulations to be carried out usingthe Shetran model for the period 1993–2011. The results from this work show that after ploughing therewas an increase of around 50–100 mm in annual streamflow compared with the original upland grass-land vegetation. However, the mature trees now show a decrease of around 250–300 mm in the annualstreamflow compared with the original vegetation and a decrease of around 350 mm in the annualstreamflow compared with when the site was ploughed. The simulation results show very clearly thenon-stationary nature of the catchment during 1993–2011 with an annual increase in intercepted evap-oration and a decrease in discharge as the trees grow. Simulation results also show that peak dischargesare higher for a cover of smaller trees compared with taller trees. However, the results suggest that thebigger the event the smaller is the difference, i.e. there is absolute convergence for the two different treescenarios at higher discharges. The study shows how modelling can compensate for data deficiencies, tomaximise outcomes. As a rare example of long-term analysis of non-stationary catchment behaviour it also provides real evidence of change that would otherwise have had to be inferred theoretically.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Birkinshaw SJ, Bathurst JC, Robinson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hydrology

Year: 2014

Volume: 519, Part A

Pages: 559-573

Print publication date: 27/11/2014

Online publication date: 12/08/2014

Acceptance date: 26/07/2014

Date deposited: 24/09/2014

ISSN (print): 0022-1694

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.07.050


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