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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Local‐and network‐scale influence of peatlands on boreal catchment response to rainfall events

Karimi, Shirin; Leach, Jason; Huseby Karlsen, Reinert; Seibert, Jan; Bishop, Kevin; Laudon, Hjalmar


Boreal catchments are composed of different land covers, such as forests, peatlands and lakes, which differ in their runoff response to rainfall events. Understanding the individual and combined responses to rainfall events of these different land cover types is crucial for predicting potential impacts of future climate conditions on boreal water cycling. A common assumption is that peatlands attenuate peak flows, which is used as a motivation to restore drained boreal wetlands. However, it remains unclear how and to what extent peatlands can affect peak flow response. Only a few previous studies have looked at the hydrologic dynamics of peatlands in response to specific rainfall events across a wide range of nested sub-catchments with varying peatland cover. In this study, we use nine years of hourly hydrometric data from 14 catchments within the Krycklan Catchment Study in northern Sweden to examine how peatlands contribute to flood attenuation at both local and stream network scales. Our analysis at the local scale demonstrated that during large events with low antecedent wetness conditions, peatland-dominated catchment exhibited more muted responses compared to the similar-sized forest-dominated catchment. However, during events with high antecedent wetness conditions, the peatland-dominated catchment exhibited flood magnitudes similar to the forest-dominated catchment, although the elevated flow condition at the peatland-dominated catchment persisted for longer periods. Finally, our analysis revealed no significant influence of peatlands on the attenuation or amplification of floods at the stream network scale.


antecedent conditions; boreal landscapes; peak flow; peatlands; rainfall events

Published in

Hydrological Processes
2023, Volume: 37, number: 10, article number: e14998