Peatland

Dark peaty soils

The peaty soils of Scarborough Carrs, in places up to 3m deep, formed in waterlogged ground where a Stone Age wetland landscape used to be some 10,000 years ago. Coined ‘Lake Flixton’  this watery environment, inhabited by Mesolithic humans was in fact part of a string of shallow water bodies, reedswamp and boggy woodland right along the Vale of Pickering. Over the millenia, deep fen peat deposits accumulated and the lakes gradually filled in. The open landscape of today with level fields divided by water-filled ditches has been created by over 200 years of land drainage for farming. The peat is evident in the sides of the ditches when they are cleaned out to keep them flowing, or in the dark colour of ploughed fields – giving rise to the local term ‘Black Land’. There are a number of reasons as to why it is important to conserve peatlands, for example they act as a sink for CO² and when they are degraded they release this back into the atmosphere, furthering the effects of climate change. It is also used to help us reconstruct the past as it preserves pollen, artefacts and fossils which act as clues to help build the picture of past environments and human land use. Read the post on The Carr’s Holocene sediments here.

Jul11 Flixton brow summer view banner crop

Summertime view from the Yorkshire Wolds escarpment, looking across the flat deep peats of Flixton Basin.

A sensible estimate of the volume of carbon-rich peat in the Flixton Basin is 20 million cubic metres (assuming around 1000ha at 2m deep). Current estimates of carbon dioxide emissions from drained peatlands elsewhere would conservatively suggest (at 8 t/ha) around 8000 tonnes of CO2 emanating from the Flixton peatland every year as this organic soil steadily oxidises and shrinks. Sobering thought…

Mar 2010 ditch Folkton

Sluiced ditch, Folkton Carr as part of a wet grassland habitat creation scheme for breeding waders. The elevated water tables and grassland cover can also inhibit the loss of peat compared to drained and cultivated peat 

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One thought on “Peatland

  1. Pingback: Carrs Wetland -What’s in a Name? | The Carrs Wetland Project

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