Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-132
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2021-132

  07 Jun 2021

07 Jun 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Modelling long-term alluvial peatland dynamics in temperate river floodplains

Ward Swinnen1,2, Nils Broothaerts1, and Gert Verstraeten1 Ward Swinnen et al.
  • 1Department of Earth and Environmental Science, KU Leuven, Leuven, 3000, Belgium
  • 2Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO), Brussels, 1000, Belgium

Abstract. Peat growth is a frequent phenomenon in European river valleys. The presence of peat in the floodplain stratigraphy makes them hotspots of carbon storage. The long-term dynamics of alluvial peatlands are complex due to interactions between the peat and the local river network, and as a result, alluvial peatland development in relation to both regional and local conditions is not well understood. In this study, a new modelling framework is presented to simulate long-term peatland development in river floodplains by coupling a river basin hydrology model (STREAM) with a local peat growth model (modified version of Digibog). The model is applied to two lowland rivers in northern Belgium, located in the European loess (Dijle river) and sand (Grote Nete river) belts. Parameter sensitivity analysis and scenario analysis are used to study the relative importance of internal processes and environmental conditions on peatland development. The simulation results demonstrate that the peat thickness is largely determined by the spacing and mobility of the local river channel(s) rather than by channel characteristics or peat properties. In contrast, changes in regional conditions such as climate and land cover across the upstream river basin showed to influence the river hydrograph, but have a limited effect on peat growth. These results demonstrate that alluvial peatland development is strongly determined by the geomorphic boundary conditions set by the river network and as such models must account for river channel dynamics to adequately simulate peatland development trajectories in valley environments.

Ward Swinnen et al.

Status: open (until 19 Jul 2021)

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Ward Swinnen et al.

Ward Swinnen et al.

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Short summary
Here we present a new modelling framework, specifically designed to simulate alluvial peat growth, taking into account the river dynamics. The results indicate that alluvial peat growth is strongly determined by the number, spacing and movement of the river channels in the floodplain, rather than by environmental changes or peat properties. As such, the amount of peat that can develop in a floodplain is strongly determined by the characteristics and dynamics of the local river network.
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