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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Identifying and assessing the potential hydrological function of past artificial forest drainage

Hasselquist, Eliza Maher; Lidberg, William; Sponseller, Ryan A.; Agren, Anneli; Laudon, Hjalmar


Drainage of forested wetlands for increased timber production has profoundly altered the hydrology and water quality of their downstream waterways. Some ditches need network maintenance (DNM), but potential positive effects on tree productivity must be balanced against environmental impacts. Currently, no clear guidelines exist for DNM that strike this balance. Our study helps begin to prioritise DNM by: (1) quantifying ditches by soil type in the 68 km(2) Krycklan Catchment Study in northern Sweden and (2) using upslope catchment area algorithms on new high-resolution digital elevation models to determine their likelihood to drain water. Ditches nearly doubled the size of the stream network (178-327 km) and 17% of ditches occurred on well-draining sedimentary soils, presumably making DNM unwarranted. Modelling results suggest that 25-50% of ditches may never support flow. With new laser scanning technology, simple mapping and modelling methods can locate ditches and model their function, facilitating efforts to balance DNM with environmental impacts.


DEM; Flow accumulation model; Hydrology; LiDAR; Peatland; Terrain-based prediction

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2018, Volume: 47, number: 5, pages: 546-556