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Origins and development of the flow country blanket mire, northern Scotland : with particular reference to patterned fens

Origins and development of the flow country blanket mire, northern Scotland : with particular reference to patterned fens
Origins and development of the flow country blanket mire, northern Scotland : with particular reference to patterned fens

The blanket mire of Sutherland and Caithness (`The Flow Country') comprises 400,000ha, the largest area of such peatland in Europe, yet there is incomplete knowledge of its present ecology and almost nothing is known of its palaeoecology. This study examines the status and development of patterned fens, a mire type only recently discovered in Scotland, and relates this to the more extensive surrounding ombrotrophic blanket mire. A total of 141 vegetation and water chemistry samples were taken from eighteen sites, and analysed using multivariate ordination and classification techniques. A total of nine noda are described and compared with other British and European mire types. The development of patterned fens is elucidated using stratigraphic data and macrofossil analysis of selected cores from four sites. Most of these show a successional development from early fen peats to later ombrotrophic mire growth (ca. 6500-6000bp). There is a reversion to poor fen peat after this (ca. 2850bp at one site), which persists to the present day. A radiocarbon dated pollen chronology is described and is used as a basis for more detailed work in the Cross Lochs area. Data from a deep ombrotrophic peat shows similar early development to the fens but at ca.2700bp shows a change to a Sphagnum rich community, a response consistent with increased surface wetness. It is suggested that this stratigraphic change and the development of patterned fens was a response to climatic change. Development of surface pools on the fens is demonstrated to be a recent event, probably occurring via biological processes. Present process observations indicate that the surface patterning is probably ultimately unstable. Investigations into the initiation of ombrotrophic peats are fraught with methodological problems; information on the sample context, macrofossil and loss on ignition data is required to establish the conditions under which peat has formed. A comparison of adjacent deep and shallow ombrotrophic peats indicates a primarily climatic origin for peat development in non-basin situations in this area, although anthropogenic burning may have speeded this process later.

University of Southampton
Charman, Daniel John
Charman, Daniel John

Charman, Daniel John (1990) Origins and development of the flow country blanket mire, northern Scotland : with particular reference to patterned fens. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The blanket mire of Sutherland and Caithness (`The Flow Country') comprises 400,000ha, the largest area of such peatland in Europe, yet there is incomplete knowledge of its present ecology and almost nothing is known of its palaeoecology. This study examines the status and development of patterned fens, a mire type only recently discovered in Scotland, and relates this to the more extensive surrounding ombrotrophic blanket mire. A total of 141 vegetation and water chemistry samples were taken from eighteen sites, and analysed using multivariate ordination and classification techniques. A total of nine noda are described and compared with other British and European mire types. The development of patterned fens is elucidated using stratigraphic data and macrofossil analysis of selected cores from four sites. Most of these show a successional development from early fen peats to later ombrotrophic mire growth (ca. 6500-6000bp). There is a reversion to poor fen peat after this (ca. 2850bp at one site), which persists to the present day. A radiocarbon dated pollen chronology is described and is used as a basis for more detailed work in the Cross Lochs area. Data from a deep ombrotrophic peat shows similar early development to the fens but at ca.2700bp shows a change to a Sphagnum rich community, a response consistent with increased surface wetness. It is suggested that this stratigraphic change and the development of patterned fens was a response to climatic change. Development of surface pools on the fens is demonstrated to be a recent event, probably occurring via biological processes. Present process observations indicate that the surface patterning is probably ultimately unstable. Investigations into the initiation of ombrotrophic peats are fraught with methodological problems; information on the sample context, macrofossil and loss on ignition data is required to establish the conditions under which peat has formed. A comparison of adjacent deep and shallow ombrotrophic peats indicates a primarily climatic origin for peat development in non-basin situations in this area, although anthropogenic burning may have speeded this process later.

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Published date: 1990

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Local EPrints ID: 460685
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/460685
PURE UUID: f58886b2-58a6-4281-a7f2-5e874d77e6ce

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Date deposited: 04 Jul 2022 18:27
Last modified: 04 Jul 2022 19:38

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Author: Daniel John Charman

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