Blog – Blanket peat restoration: numerical study

Dr Salim Goudarzi from the Protect NFM project explains recently published research on ‘Blanket Peat Restoration: Numerical Study of the Underlying Processes Delivering Natural Flood Management Benefits’

Talking about the paper recently published in Water Resources Research Dr Salim Goudarzi from Newcastle University outlined that: ‘the research shows that interventions primarily deliver NFM benefit by slowing down or delaying the overland flow thus reducing flood peaks downstream.  This ‘mobile storage’ is very important in reducing flood peaks, particularly for larger storm events.’

Recounting the background to the research Sal explained: ‘the UK contains 10-15% of the world’s blanket peat cover, but much of this vital resource is significantly degraded. As such, the restoration of eroding UK peatlands is a major conservation concern.  Landscape-scale restoration through the re-vegetation of bare peat and damming of gullies is extensive in areas of upland Britain.  Understanding the hydrological impacts of these restoration interventions is critical for flood risk management.  The research focuses on three micro catchments in the Southern Pennines in the north west of England.’

He stressed the importance of modelling for the research: ‘it’s needed to scale up findings from field scale experiments to catchment scales. I’ve worked closely with Dr David Milleage at Newcastle University and Leeds University’s Professor Jo Holden as well as Dr Emma Shuttleworth and Professor Martin Evans (Protect project lead) from the University of Manchester, and our first step has been to model at roughly football-pitch size micro-catchments.’

Sal was delighted to be able to draw on the evidence collected by the University of Manchester with partners including Moors for the Future and the Environment Agency in studies that preceded the Protect project: ‘it was the first time that such good quality before and after intervention data was available, and with a control catchment (not intervened).  This and more recent evidence collected through the Protect project has provided the raw material for our work.’

‘However,’ he explained, ‘to effectively reduce flood risk for downstream communities, interventions need to be implemented at scales 1,000 to 10,000 times greater.  We need better to understand the impacts of such scaling up.  Hence the importance of our current work modelling at catchment scales to test the impact of intervention scenarios.’

‘Ultimately we plan to make the data and models publicly available via an online database.  They will help to inform management decisions in terms of the likely impact on discharge that can be expected from areas following re-vegetation with grass and sphagnum moss.’

Looking forward Sal concluded: ‘whilst our field‐scale numerical study contributes to the evidence‐base for NFM’s effectiveness, it also provides a basis for modelling these interventions in the future at catchment‐scales, to help inform future flood risk and land use management.’

You can hear Sal talking about his work in a recorded webinar (August 2020) on our website here.  There is also a webinar recording on the early and pre Protect-NFM research in the southern Pennines here (October 2019).  Professor Martin Evans and Dr Donald Edokpa from the University of Manchester will be talking about the use of empirical evidence in the Protect-NFM research in October as part of our webinar series.  You can see our short film on Protect-NFM’s work here.  A full list of NFM Research Programme published papers is available here.