Enhanced Hydrologic Connectivity and Solute Dynamics Following Wildfire and Drought in a Contaminated Temperate Peatland Catchment

Marcotte, Abbey L. and Limpens, Juul and Nunes, João Pedro and Howard, Ben C. and Hurley, Alexander G. and Khamis, Kieran and Krause, Stefan and Croghan, Danny and Kourmouli, Angeliki and Leader, Samantha and Singh, Tanu and Stoof, Cathelijne R. and Ullah, Sami and Kettridge, Nicholas (2024) Enhanced Hydrologic Connectivity and Solute Dynamics Following Wildfire and Drought in a Contaminated Temperate Peatland Catchment. Water Resources Research, 60 (7): e2023WR036. ISSN 0043-1397

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Intact peatlands provide hydrological ecosystem services, such as regulating water regimes and immobilizing pollutants within catchments. Climate change impacts including drought and wildfire may impair their functioning, potentially impacting ecosystem service delivery. Here we investigate stream water quality changes following the combined impacts of a summer drought and wildfire in a peat‐dominated catchment in the UK during 2018. The study catchment stores legacy pollutants (i.e., metals) due to past industrial activity, thus making it particularly susceptible to pollutant release during wildfires. We quantified changes in water chemistry during five storm events over a 9‐month period following the wildfire. Concentration‐discharge (C‐Q) relationships for nine solutes were analyzed to explore changes in activation and connectivity of solute source zones. Hysteresis and flushing indices of C‐Q responses further described solute dynamics during storm events. We found that most nutrient and base cation concentrations in the stream discharge were highest in the immediate post‐fire storm events and decreased during subsequent autumn and spring storms. Metal concentrations increased during autumn and spring storms, indicating delayed mobilization from within‐peat or distal headwater sources. Our findings suggest that seasonal re‐wetting and hydrologic connectivity following disturbance influenced solute source zone activation and transport in the study catchment. Water quality responses associated with wildfire and drought were primarily observed in the months following the wildfire, suggesting mobilization of pollutants peaks shortly after fire. Our results contribute to a critical understanding of the future of water quality risks in temperate peatland catchments subject to disturbances exacerbated by climate change.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Water Resources Research
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? concentration‐discharge relationshipheavy metalsblanket peatlandhysteresislegacy pollutantswater science and technology ??
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Deposited On:
09 Jul 2024 16:10
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 01:23