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Distributed hydrological modeling with channel network flow of a forestry drained peatland site


Peatland drainage has been an important component of forestry management in the boreal zone and the resulting ditch networks are maintained regularly to sustain forest productivity. In Finland, this is recognized as the most detrimental forestry practice increasing diffuse loads of suspended solids. Alongside forestry management on peatlands, interest in peatland restoration has grown lately. Distributed hydrological modeling has the potential to address these matters by recognizing relevant physical mechanisms and identifying most suitable strategies for mitigating undesired outcomes. This study investigates the utility of such a modeling approach in a drained peatland forest environment. To provide a suitable tool for this purpose, we coupled channel network flow to the three-dimensional distributed hydrological model FLUSH. The resulting model was applied to a 5.2 ha drained peatland forest catchment in Eastern Finland. The model was calibrated and validated using field measurements obtained over frost-free periods of five months. The application showed that distributed modeling can disentangle the importance of spatial factors on local soil moisture conditions, which is significant as peatland drainage aims to control these conditions. In our application, we limited the spatial aspect to the topography and the drainage network, and found that the drainage configuration had a clear effect on the spatial soil moisture patterns but that the effect was less pronounced during the wetter summer. Future applications of distributed modeling in this field comprises investigating the impacts of other spatial factors, modeling channel erosion and solid transport to address strategies for their mitigation, and evaluating restoration schemes.

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