Peatlands are the dominant landscape element in many northern watersheds where they can have an important influence on the hydrology of streams. However, the capacity of peatlands to moderate stream flow during critical dry periods remains uncertain partly due to the difficulty of estimating discharge from extensive peat deposits. We therefore used two different approaches to quantify diffuse pore water contributions from peatlands to a creek within a small watershed in Southcentral Alaska. A sensitivity analysis of a water budget for a representative peatland within this watershed showed that a substantial surplus of pore water may remain available for subsequent discharge during a dry period after accounting for water losses to evapotranspiration. These findings were supported by end member mixing analysis (EMMA), which indicated that 55% of the stream flow during a dry period originated from the near-surface layers of peatlands within the watershed. Contributions from peatlands to stream flow in northern coastal regions may therefore provide an important buffer against the potentially harmful effects of changing climatic conditions on commercially important fish species.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA grant 8348260) through a cooperative agreement with the Kenai Watershed Forum, and also by the Conservation Biology Program of the University of Minnesota (summer fellowship to M. Gracz), and the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award-0628647 to P. Glaser). The views, trade names, and commercial products mentioned above do not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use by the EPA.
- Stream flow