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

Birkinshaw, Stephen J.; Bathurst, James C.; Robinson, Mark. 2014 45 years of non-stationary hydrology over a forest plantation growth cycle, Coalburn catchment, Northern England. Journal of Hydrology, 519 (A). 559-573.

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The Coalburn research catchment (1.5 km2) in Kielder Forest, Northern England, is a long-term project to study the effect of upland afforestation on hydrology. There is now a unique 45-year record; making it Britain’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 data have been measured since 1993 and these have enabled hydrological simulations to be carried out using the Shetran model for the period 1993–2011. The results from this work show that after ploughing there was an increase of around 50–100 mm in annual streamflow compared with the original upland grassland vegetation. However, the mature trees now show a decrease of around 250–300 mm in the annual streamflow compared with the original vegetation and a decrease of around 350 mm in the annual streamflow compared with when the site was ploughed. The simulation results show very clearly the non-stationary nature of the catchment during 1993–2011 with an annual increase in intercepted evaporation and a decrease in discharge as the trees grow. Simulation results also show that peak discharges are higher for a cover of smaller trees compared with taller trees. However, the results suggest that the bigger the event the smaller is the difference, i.e. there is absolute convergence for the two different tree scenarios at higher discharges. The study shows how modelling can compensate for data deficiencies, to maximise 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.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
CEH Sections/Science Areas: CEH Fellows
ISSN: 0022-1694
Additional Keywords: forest growth, non-stationary hydrology, peak flow, water yield, Coalburn, Shetran
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 05 Nov 2014 10:53 +0 (UTC)

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