Geomorphic controls on fluvial carbon exports and emissions from upland swamps in eastern Australia

Kirsten Cowley*, Arun Looman, Damien T. Maher, Kirstie Fryirs

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone (THPSS) are upland wetlands, similar to fens in the Northern Hemisphere and are found at the headwaters of low-order streams on the plateaus of Eastern Australia. They are classified as endangered ecological communities under State and National legislation. Previous works have identified particular geomorphic characteristics that are important to carbon storage in these low energy sediment accumulation zones. Changes in the geomorphic structure of THPSS, such as channelisation, may have profound implications for carbon storage. To assess the effect of channelisation on carbon budgets in these ecosystems it is essential to identify and quantify differences in carbon export, emissions and stocks of carbon of intact swamps and those that have become channelised. We undertook seasonal sampling of the perched swamp aquifers and surface waters of two intact swamps and two channelised fills in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia, to investigate differences in carbon exports and emissions between the two swamp types. We found that channelised fills’ mean CO 2 emissions were almost four times higher than intact swamps with mean CH 4 emissions up to five times higher. Annual fluvial carbon exports for channelised fills were up to 18 times that of intact swamps. Channelised fill exports and emissions can represent up to 2% of the total swamp carbon stocks per annum which is 40 times higher than the intact swamps. This work clearly demonstrates that changes in geomorphic structure brought about by incision and channelisation results in profound changes to the carbon storage function of THPSS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)765-776
    Number of pages12
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Early online date16 Oct 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2018


    • Anthropogenic modification
    • Carbon budget
    • Carbon dioxide
    • Carbon export
    • Greenhouse gases
    • Methane
    • Peatland
    • Wetland

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