Hydrological studies on blanket peat: the significance of the acrotelm-catotelm model


J. Holden (fax + 44 113 3433308, e-mail


  • 1Runoff production in blanket peat catchments of the northern Pennine hills, UK was measured through monitoring and experimentation at the plot, hillslope and catchment scale. Water flow from soil pipes was measured in one of the study catchments and overland flow, throughflow and water table were measured in runoff plots; rainfall simulation and tension-infiltrometry provided information on infiltration characteristics of the peat.
  • 2Saturation-excess overland flow was found to dominate the flashy flow regime; acrotelm stormflow, subsurface pipeflow and macropore flow were also found to be important components of the ecohydrological system.
  • 3Surface cover, topography and preferential flowpaths were found to be important factors in controlling infiltration and runoff production.
  • 4Streamflow generation processes that are consistent with the acrotelm-catotelm model are shown to occur in blanket peat with and without Sphagnum cover, but in one of the catchments studied an estimated 10% of the discharge bypassed this route and discharged via pipes.
  • 5The spatial and temporal variation in hillslope-scale runoff production was demonstrated in the study catchments. This variability in runoff production will be important for hydroecological understanding in peatlands but is often neglected because of over-simplification of processes provided by the traditional two-dimensional acrotelm-catotelm model.