Monitoring and modelling mire hydrology for conservation management
The functional hydrological components of the ombrotrophic mire water balance are, considered in terms of their ecological relevance. It is proposed that numerical models provide a suitable framework for mire hydro-systems and their potential as quantitative tools for mire restoration and conservation management is demonstrated. Existing models previously applied to mires are reviewed. The USGS 3-D groundwater model MODFLOW is selected and a new shallow surface and groundwater model GSHAW5 is developed for application to mires. Extensive ecohydrological case studies are undertaken at two mire sites and the models are tested using data collected at the sites. Field studies at Wedholme Flow, Cumbria, extended over four years and the data collected were combined with historical records to form a 10-year hydrological data set. Studies at Trough End Bog, Northumbria, extended over a 3-year period. Topographic, soil and vegetation surveys were carried out at both sites. Watertable fluctuation was recorded manually on a weekly basis and electronically at a 20-minute interval along with automatic meteorological records. New hydrometric techniques were developed in the Surface Water Monitoring Plot, SWaMP, constructed at Trough End to record hydrological exchanges within the hummock-hollow complex of the mire acrotelm. The models operate on very different spatial and temporal scales. GSHAW5 is applied to reproduce ground and surface exchanges in the acrotel. MODFLOW is used to simulate large-scale exchanges in undisturbed areas and between regenerating and active peat cutting areas. Predictive MODFLOW simulations are used to examine the impact of different peat cutting regimes on mire hydrology and potential regeneration. Both models produce simulations strongly correlated to observed hydrological exchanges. The usefulness of numerical models as tools for mire management is considered in light of the model test results from both case studies. It is concluded that both models provide insight and quantitative estimates of hydrological exchanges not possible by other means. MODFLOW simulations reveal considerable water loss from the Wedholme Flow mire reserve to an active peat cutting area. Simulations of Trough End bog reveal hydrological acrotelm processes strongly related to vegetation assemblages. An extensified GSHAW5 acrotelm model is recommended for the simulation of intact ombrotrophic mires.