Leeds University

Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins

Close up shot of the boundary between a recently burned patch and older heather (Lee Brown)
Hillside with older patches of heather (brown) interspersed with patches of re-growing young vegetation (Joe Holden)

The 1st of October sees the start of this year's moorland burning season.

Our research has increased understanding of the effects of prescribed vegetation burning on blanket peatland hydrology, chemistry and physical properties, and on the hydrology, water quality and biota of rivers in upland peat-dominated catchments. It is the first time that a systematic and comprehensive assessment of burned and unburned catchments has been carried out.

The project was initiated in response to concerns over the intensification of rotational heather burning on blanket peatlands and the lack of evidence to inform various stakeholders about the environmental effects.

A two page executive summary and full report of key findings are both available.

The research was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council with additional support from Yorkshire Water.

If you refer to or use information contained in these reports, please let us know and include us in your citations:
Brown, L. E, Holden, J. and Palmer, S. M. (2014) Effects of moorland burning on the ecohydrology of river basins. Key findings from the EMBER project. University of Leeds. 

Report authors:
Lee Brown: http://www.geog.leeds.ac.uk/people/l.brown
Joseph Holden: http://www.geog.leeds.ac.uk/people/j.holden
Sheila Palmer: http://www.geog.leeds.ac.uk/people/s.palmer

Downloads:
Full Report
Executive Summary

 

Articles published in international, peer-reviewed scientific journals

River runoff and flood generation processes

Impact of prescribed burning on blanket peat hydrology http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014WR016782/full

* This paper relates to Part 4 of the report. It provides more conclusive findings of soil and river hydrology, particularly during peak rainfall events, following further analyses of the data since 2014.

River ecosystems and biodiversity

River ecosystem response to prescribed vegetation burning on blanket peatland http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081023

 * This paper relates to Part 6 of the report

Soil processes

Vegetation management with fire modifies peatland soil thermal regime http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301479715001127

 * This paper relates to Part 5 of the report

Fire decreases near-surface hydraulic conductivity and macropore flow in blanket peat http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hyp.9875/abstract

                                      * This paper relates to Parts 3 and 4 of the report                       

General review/ commentary

Effects of fire on the hydrology, biogeochemistry, and ecology of peatland river systems http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/683426

* A review paper that integrates parts of the EMBER report with research by other scientists 

Moorland vegetation burning debates should avoid contextomy and anachronism: A comment on Davies et al. 2016

http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/102977

* A critical comment on a paper that discussed various issues related to moorland burning