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Coastal peat-beds and peatlands of the southern North Sea: their past, present and future

Waller, M and Kirby, JR (2020) Coastal peat-beds and peatlands of the southern North Sea: their past, present and future. Biological Reviews. ISSN 1469-185X

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Abstract

Peat layers are well represented in the Holocene coastal deposits of the southern North Sea and provide evidence as to the extent and nature of the fens and bogs that occupied the region in the mid and late Holocene. While natural processes contributed to their demise, without human interference extensive areas of peatland would remain. We review the characteristics of the vegetation of these peatlands along with the processes that influenced their development. Spatial and temporal trends are explored through the use of palaeogeographic maps from three areas: the East Anglian Fenland, the Romney Marsh area and the Netherlands. The palaeoecological evidence indicates that eutrophic vegetation promoted by rising relative sea level (RSL) dominated in the mid Holocene, with a trend towards the development of oligotrophic and ombrotrophic vegetation in the late Holocene as the rate of RSL rise declined. Nevertheless, areas of eutrophic vegetation appear capable of long‐term stability with areas of fen woodland and herbaceous fen persisting at some locations for several thousand years in the mid and late Holocene. Areas of active peat growth in the region are now largely confined to small remnants within agricultural settings. To retain their characteristic biodiversity these remnants have been managed using traditional practices, although their small size and fragmented distribution limits their biodiversity value. Biodiversity concerns and the ecosystem services peatlands provide, notably carbon sequestration and flood attenuation, underlie recent restoration projects. These efforts are likely to receive additional impetus as a consequence of rising water levels, given projected rates of RSL rise. Future large‐scale restoration can be informed by a greater understanding of the processes that formed and sustained coastal peatlands in the past. We identify advances in palaeoenvironmental research that could enhance restoration efforts and help maximise the ecosystem services delivered through such projects.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Waller, M. and Kirby, J. (2020), Coastal peat‐beds and peatlands of the southern North Sea: their past, present and future. Biol Rev., which has been published in final form at https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/brv.12662. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Uncontrolled Keywords: 06 Biological Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GC Oceanography
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (new Sep 19)
Publisher: Wiley
Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2020 11:45
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2020 11:45
DOI or Identification number: 10.1111/brv.12662
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14022

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