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A review of carbon flux research in UK peatlands in relation to fire and the Cairngorms National Park

Gray, Alan; Levy, Peter. 2009 A review of carbon flux research in UK peatlands in relation to fire and the Cairngorms National Park. NERC/Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, 36pp. (CEH Project Number: C03530) (Unpublished)

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Abstract/Summary

Peatland areas within the UK as a whole and on a more local level within the Cairngorms National Park (CNP) hold major stocks of terrestrial carbon. These areas are subjected to land management practices, such as burning, drainage, and grazing. Climate change is leading to increased fire frequency in many ecosystems including peatlands as a result of summer droughts. In addition, land use change, e.g. reduction in grazing and management fires or increases in recreational use, have resulted in an increased fire hazard. Particularly problematic are large intense fires which impact upon biodiversity, livelihoods and human life. These problems are directly relevant to the CNP which holds large areas of moorland that includes peatland and heathland ecosystems. Concern over the environmental impact of changes to fire regimes in upland areas of the UK and CNP (i.e. frequency, intensity, size, season) is, compounded by a lack of data on the impacts of fire regime on biodiversity, soil erosion, water quality, carbon sequestration and other ecosystem services. There is therefore a need to take stock of carbon flux research on peatland ecosystems in the UK in general and relate this to the CNP on a more local level. This is required to assess the level of spatial and temporal resolution of the current data, determine whether peatlands are currently sinks or sources to the atmospheres and to understand the implications of fire on peatland ecosystems in order to protect the large carbon stores from being lost to the atmosphere. This is also required within the CNP so that the degree of any knowledge gap can be assessed in order that policy and management decisions can be addressed based on evidence. Approach Here we review peatland carbon flux research in the UK and relate its applicability to the CNP in order to: 1. summarise previous work, 2. provide evidence of how fire influences carbon fluxes in UK peatlands, 3. indicate areas of study where research is needed for model parameterisation and 4. indicate opportunities for applied peatland research in relation to fire. Conclusions At present, there is insufficient data to draw firm conclusions on the effects of fire on the peatland carbon cycle and to sufficiently parameterise models at a UK level or a morel local one i.e. Cairngorms National Park. Much of the evidence is from single site (Moor House in the Pennines) and the applicability of the results to the wider UK and CNP peatland landscape is open to question. We suggest that an inter-disciplinary approach is required to include all stakeholders such as, landowners, politicians and scientists.

Item Type: Publication - Report (UNSPECIFIED)
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biogeochemistry
CEH Sections: Watt
Funders/Sponsors: Cairngorms National Park Authority
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 12 Feb 2013 10:13 +0 (UTC)
URI: http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/21371

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