Regulation of peatland evaporation following wildfire; the complex control of soil tension under dynamic evaporation demand Journal Articles uri icon

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  • AbstractThe capability of peatland ecosystems to regulate evapotranspiration (ET) following wildfire is a key control on the resilience of their globally important carbon stocks under future climatic conditions. Evaporation dominates post‐fire ET, with canopy and sub‐canopy removal restricting transpiration and increasing evaporation potential. Therefore, in order to project the hydrology and associated stability of peatlands to a diverse range of post‐fire weather conditions and future climates the regulation of evaporation must be accurately parameterised in peatland ecohydrological models. To achieve this, we measure the surface resistance (rs) to evaporation over the growing season one year post‐fire within four zones of a boreal peatland that burned to differing depths, relatingrsto near surface soil tensions. We show that the magnitude and temporal variability inrsvaries with burn severity. At the peatland scale,rsand near‐surface tension correlates non‐linearly. However, at the point scale no relationship was evident between temporal variations inrsand near‐surface tension across all burn severities; in part due to the limited fluctuation in near‐surface tensions and the precision ofrsmeasurements. Where automated measurements enabled averaging of errors, the relationship between near‐surface tension andrsswitched between periods of strong and weak correlation within a burned peat hummock. This relationship, when strong, deviated from that obtained under steady state laboratory conditions; increases inrswere more sensitive to fluctuations in near‐surface tension under dynamic field conditions. Calculating soil vapour densities directly from near‐surface tensions is shown to require calibration between peat types and provides little if any benefit beyond the derivation of empirical relationships betweenrsand measured soil tension. Thus, we demonstrate important spatiotemporal fluctuations in post‐firersthat will be key to regulating post‐fire peatland hydrology, but highlight the complex challenges in effectively parameterising this important underlying control of near‐surface tensions within hydrological simulations.


  • Kettridge, Nicholas
  • Lukenbach, Maxwell C
  • Hokanson, Kelly J
  • Devito, Kevin J
  • Petrone, Richard M
  • Mendoza, Carl A
  • Waddington, J Michael

publication date

  • April 2021