1Present address: James W. Pearce-Higgins, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU, UK.
Maintaining northern peatland ecosystems in a changing climate: effects of soil moisture, drainage and drain blocking on craneflies
Article first published online: 21 MAR 2011
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Global Change Biology
Volume 17, Issue 9, pages 2991–3001, September 2011
How to Cite
CARROLL, M. J., DENNIS, P., PEARCE-HIGGINS, J. W. and THOMAS, C. D. (2011), Maintaining northern peatland ecosystems in a changing climate: effects of soil moisture, drainage and drain blocking on craneflies. Global Change Biology, 17: 2991–3001. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02416.x
- Issue published online: 2 AUG 2011
- Article first published online: 21 MAR 2011
- Accepted manuscript online: 1 MAR 2011 06:09AM EST
- Received 20 December 2010; revised version received 20 January 2011 and accepted 20 February 2011
- blanket bog;
- breeding birds;
The capacity of peatlands in the northern hemisphere to provide carbon storage, maintain water quality and support northern biodiversity is threatened by a combination of climate change and inappropriate land management. Historical drainage and increasing temperatures threaten the maintenance of the high water tables required for effective peatland functioning, and there is an urgent need to develop appropriate adaptation strategies. Here we use a large-scale replicated experimental design to test the effects of artificial drainage and drain blocking upon soil moisture and cranefly (Diptera: Tipulidae) abundance. Craneflies constitute a key component of peatland biological communities; they are important herbivores and a major prey item for breeding birds. However, they are also susceptible to drought, so are at risk from future climate change. We found that cranefly abundance increased with soil moisture, in a wedge-shaped relationship; high soil moisture is a necessary condition for high cranefly abundance. Blocking drains increased both soil moisture (by 0.06 m3 m−3 in 2009 and 0.23 m3 m−3 in 2010) and cranefly abundance (1.3-fold in 2009, 4.5-fold in 2010), but the strength and significance of the effects varied between years. The benefits of restoring ecosystem moisture levels are likely to be greatest during dry years and at dry sites. This study provides some of the first evidence that adaptation management can potentially reduce some of the negative effects of climate change on vulnerable peatland systems. Management to maintain or increase soil moisture in peatlands can therefore be expected to increase populations of craneflies and their avian predators (which are of conservation and economic interest), but also increase the resilience of the ecosystem to future warming and increasingly frequent droughts, and improve carbon storage and water quality.