University of Oulu

Koivunen, I., Muotka, T., Jokikokko, M., Virtanen, R., & Jyväsjärvi, J. (2023). Downstream impacts of peatland drainage on headwater stream biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. In Forest Ecology and Management (Vol. 543, p. 121143). Elsevier BV.

Downstream impacts of peatland drainage on headwater stream biodiversity and ecosystem functioning

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Author: Koivunen, Iina1; Muotka, Timo2; Jokikokko, Mika1;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, FI-90014, Finland
2Oulanka Research Station, Liikasenvaarantie 134, 93999 Kuusamo, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-07


Intensive peatland drainage alters the physico-chemical status of the recipient streams, potentially leading to the loss of biodiversity and impaired ecosystem functioning. However, the extent of these changes, and particularly their impacts on downstream ecosystems, remain poorly understood. We studied the downstream effects of peatland drainage on stream biodiversity (aquatic bryophytes and macroinvertebrates) and key ecosystem processes (primary productivity, organic matter (OM) decomposition and OM standing stock). Our survey design comprised upstream (directly below drainage network) and downstream (∼300 m downstream) locations in 18 boreal headwater streams encompassing an extensive gradient of peatland drainage intensity (0–48 %). Drainage modified environmental conditions, with nutrient (TP, TN) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations and inorganic sediment cover increasing with intensifying drainage, in both upstream and downstream sites. Species richness of both benthic macroinvertebrates and bryophytes was strongly reduced with increasing drainage intensity. Upstream and downstream sites responded in a similar manner, suggesting wide-ranging impacts of drainage on stream biodiversity. Regardless of site location, ecosystem processes were unrelated to drainage intensity. Our results confirm that intense peatland drainage not only modifies environmental conditions and biodiversity in adjoining streams, but these impacts propagate further downstream in the stream network. To prevent further degradation of drainage-impacted freshwater ecosystems, large-scale peatland restoration is needed, with prioritization of sites with the greatest potential (least drainage-induced damage) for biodiversity recovery.

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Series: Forest ecology and management
ISSN: 0378-1127
ISSN-E: 1872-7042
ISSN-L: 0378-1127
Volume: 543
Article number: 121143
DOI: 10.1016/j.foreco.2023.121143
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by Kone Foundation and Academy of Finland (grant no. 318230).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 318230
Detailed Information: 318230 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: Data will be made available on request.
Copyright information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (