Case study:Investigating the impact of upland conifer afforestation on catchment hydrology at Coalburn, northern England

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Location: 55° 5' 41", -2° 28' 50"
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Project overview

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Status In progress
Project web site http://www.therrc.co.uk/sites/default/files/projects/24_coalburn.pdf
Themes Flood risk management, Habitat and biodiversity, Land use management - forestry, Monitoring, Water quality
Country England
Main contact forename Tom
Main contact surname Nisbet
Main contact user ID
Contact organisation Forest Research
Contact organisation web site http://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/
Partner organisations Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, United Utilities, Newcastle University, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Parent multi-site project
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encompassing the following
projects
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Project summary

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The project was set up in 1966 as a research catchment for the study of the long-term effects of conifer afforestation on upland water supplies. After a 5-year period of baseline measurements, 90% of the 150ha moorland catchment of the Coalburn was deep ploughed and planted with predominantly Sitka spruce in 1972 to 1973. Stream flow, rainfall and other measurements have continued throughout the study to capture the effects of a full forest growth cycle on catchment hydrology. Results show that the different stages of the forest cycle differ markedly in terms of their impact on catchment water yield and extreme flows. This case study focuses on reporting the effects on peak flows. Land use change from moorland to conifer forest has had marked effects on catchment hydrology, which vary through time. At first pre-planting cultivation and drainage dominated by increasing peak flows by 15–20% and reducing time to peak by a third. These changes appeared to decline with increasing peak height, as well as reduced over time. A progressive increase in water use by the growing forest then took over and appeared to reduce peak flows, although identifying a trend was hampered by rising annual rainfall totals. Use of modelling to decouple the effect of climate variability found evidence of peak flows declining by 10–15% with forest growth. The reduction decreased with increasing event size and appeared to be lost as the return period approached 100 years. The results indicated that forest growth reduced the frequency of discharge events by around 50% (for example, an event with a return period of 13 years became a return period of 20 years).

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Catchment and subcatchment



Site

Name Coalburn
WFD water body codes
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)


Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started
Works started
Works completed
Project completed
Total cost category
Total cost (k€) £5m
"£" is not declared as a valid unit of measurement for this property.
Benefit to cost ratio
Funding sources Research council, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Newcastle University, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, United Utilities, European Commission

Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
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Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance
Monitoring



Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure Flood risk management
Hydromorphology
Biology
Physico-chemical
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Measures

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Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor establishment of woodland
Planform / Channel pattern
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Non-structural measures
Management interventions
Social measures (incl. engagement)
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Monitoring

Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

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Physico-chemical quality elements

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Monitoring documents



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Supplementary Information

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