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Runoff, flood peaks and proportional response in a combined nested and paired forest plantation/peat grassland catchment

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



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


In an unusual combined nested and paired catchment experiment in northern England, the 1.5-km2 Coalburn catchment (90% mature plantation forest with a dense drainage ditch network) is paired with the 1.4-km2 Flothers catchment (64% peat grassland), both being nested within the 6.9-km2 Throssburn mixed forest and peat grassland catchment. In only the second such UK quantification, a 100% forest cover reduces annual runoff relative to a 100% grassland cover by 24%. The study provides rare field (as opposed to model) evidence showing that the impact of land use on flood peaks is moderated by catchment saturation and by extreme rainfall. Flood frequency curves differ according to land use at the smaller return periods but the data are not sufficient to confirm that the pattern extends to the highest floods. Against conventional expectation, flood peaks tend to be larger and flashier in the forest catchment, apparently the consequence of the forest ditching. Springtime monthly runoff/rainfall ratios in the peat grassland catchment may reach 100%, representing a seasonal sponge effect which is eliminated from the forest catchment through the effects of the ditches. Combination of the paired and nested catchments provides a highly unusual opportunity to show that, at the annual scale, the integrated catchment response can be obtained by combining the responses of the separate land covers according to the proportions of the catchment that they occupy, an assumption widely made but rarely, if ever, tested.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bathurst J, Birkinshaw S, Johnson H, Kenny A, Napier A, Raven S, Robinson J, Stroud R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hydrology

Year: 2018

Volume: 564

Pages: 916-927

Print publication date: 01/09/2018

Online publication date: 17/07/2018

Acceptance date: 14/07/2018

Date deposited: 14/08/2018

ISSN (print): 0022-1694

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.07.039


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