Mires Project

Quantifying the benefits of upland restoration for the water industry

This research strengthens the scientific understanding of changes in water quality, habitat dynamics and flood risk following moorland restoration, in the peatlands of the UK’s South West.

The peatlands of the UK’s South West are important locally, nationally and internationally. They are large and long term carbon (C) stores, provide drinking water and support rare habitats. However, as they are situated at the limit of favourable climatic conditions for peat formation and have been subject to anthropogenic pressures, including drainage, peat-cutting, grazing and burning activities, these landscapes are highly vulnerable to reductions in ecohydrological function and degradation. Extensive and ongoing restoration works have been carried out in an attempt to return these peatlands to more natural hydrological behaviour, and promote a suite of associated ecosystem services.

Research conducted by this team supports the restoration efforts in these landscapes through quantifying the effect of upland restoration on habitat status, water quality and natural flood management. This is achieved through developing a spatially-integrated understanding of how ecohydrological restoration:

  • Drives water quality changes, carbon stocks and fluxes, reducing in DOC loading, water colour and carbon cycling.
  • Drives changes in water storage and base flow regimes, reducing flood risk and improving water security.
  • Alters habitat structure and function, enhancing priority habitats and delivering biodiversity and carbon sequestration benefits.

Our research is conducted across multiple spatial scales, where fine/headwater catchment scale monitoring is used in combination with remotely sensed and modelled data, to provide landscape scale predictions of changes associated with moorland restoration and management.

Team members

  • Prof Richard Brazier (PI)
  • Dr Naomi Gatis
  • Dr David Luscombe
  • Dr Pia Benaud
  • Dr Emilie Grand-Clement
  • Josie Ashe
  • Paul Tansley
  • Assoc. Prof Karen Anderson
  • Prof. Iain Hartley
  • Assoc. Prof Angela Gallego-Sala


This research is funded by South West Water (SWW), in partnership with Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA), Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), and the Environment Agency (EA).


  • Gatis, N., Benaud, P., Ashe, J., Luscombe, D.J., Grand-Clement, E., Hartley, I.P., Anderson, K., Brazier, R.E., 2019. Assessing the impact of peat erosion on growing season CO 2 fluxes by comparing erosional peat pans and surrounding vegetated haggs. Wetl. Ecol. Manag. 9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-019-09652-9
  • Gatis, N., Luscombe, D.J., Carless, D., Parry, L.E., Fyfe, R.M., Harrod, T.R., Brazier, R.E., Anderson, K., 2019. Mapping upland peat depth using airborne radiometric and lidar survey data. Geoderma 335, 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.GEODERMA.2018.07.041
  • Gatis, N., Anderson, K., Grand-Clement, E., Luscombe, D.J., Hartley, I.P., Smith, D., Brazier, R.E., 2017. Evaluating MODIS vegetation products using digital images for quantifying local peatland CO2gas fluxes. Remote Sens. Ecol. Conserv. 3, 217–231. https://doi.org/10.1002/rse2.45
  • Gatis, N., Luscombe, D.J., Grand-Clement, E., Hartley, I.P., Anderson, K., Smith, D., Brazier, R.E., 2016. The effect of drainage ditches on vegetation diversity and CO2fluxes in a Molinia caerulea-dominated peatland. Ecohydrology 9, 407–420. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1643
  • Luscombe, D.J., Anderson, K., Grand-Clement, E., Gatis, N., Ashe, J., Benaud, P., Smith, D., Brazier, R.E., 2016. How does drainage alter the hydrology of shallow degraded peatlands across multiple spatial scales? J. Hydrol. 541, 1329–1339. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.08.037
  • Luscombe, D.J., Anderson, K., Gatis, N., Grand-Clement, E., Brazier, R.E., 2015. Using airborne thermal imaging data to measure near-surface hydrology in upland ecosystems. Hydrol. Process. 29, 1656–1668. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.10285
  • Grand-Clement, E., Anderson, K., Smith, D., Angus, M., Luscombe, D.J., Gatis, N., Bray, L.S., Brazier, R.E., 2015. New approaches to the restoration of shallow marginal peatlands. J. Environ. Manage. 161, 417–430. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JENVMAN.2015.06.023
  • Luscombe, D.J., Anderson, K., Gatis, N., Wetherelt, A., Grand-Clement, E., Brazier, R.E., 2014. What does airborne LiDAR really measure in upland ecosystems? Ecohydrology n/a-n/a. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1527
  • Grand-Clement, E., Luscombe, D.J., Anderson, K., Gatis, N., Benaud, P., Brazier, R.E., 2014. Antecedent conditions control carbon loss and downstream water quality from shallow, damaged peatlands. Sci. Total Environ. 493, 961–973. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.06.091
  • Grand-Clement, E., Anderson, K., Smith, D., Luscombe, D., Gatis, N., Ross, M., Brazier, R.E., 2013. Evaluating ecosystem goods and services after restoration of marginal upland peatlands in South-West England. J. Appl. Ecol. 50, 324–334. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12039