Evaluating cumulative effects of disturbance on the hydrologic function of bogs, fens, and mires

Donald I. Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Few quantitative studies have been done on the hydrology of fens, bogs, and mires. Consequently predicting the cumulative impacts of disturbances on their hydrologic functions is extremely difficult. For example, few data are available on the role of bogs and fens with respect to flood desynchronization and shoreline anchoring. However, recent studies suggest that very small amounts of groundwater discharge are sufficient to radically modify mire surface-water chemistry, and consequently, vegetation communities and their associated surface-water hydrology. Bogs and fens are, in a sense, hydrobiologic systems, and any evaluation of cumulative impacts will have to (1) consider the complicated and little understood interactions among wetland hydrology, water chemistry, and biota, and (2) place the effect of individual wetland impacts within the context of the cumulative impacts contributed to the watershed from other geomorphic areas and land uses. It is difficult to evaluate the potential cumulative impacts on wetland hydrology because geologic settings of wetlands are often complex and the methods used to measure wetland streamflow, groundwater flow, and evapotranspiration are inexact (Winter 1988). This is especially so for bogs, fens, and mires underlain by thick organic soils. These wetlands, found in the circumboreal areas of North America, Europe, and Asia, are major physiographic features in eastern North America, northern Europe, and Siberia (Kivenen and Pakarinen 1981, Gore 1983, Glaser and Janssens 1986). Their very scale makes it difficult to quantify the hydrologic function accurately. The hydrology of small bogs and fens found elsewhere is just as poorly understood because of conflicting conceptual models of pertinent hydrologic processes. This article (1) reviews our current understanding of the hydrologic function of bogs, fens, and mires at different scales and in different physiographic settings and (2) presents hypotheses on potential cumulative impacts on the hydrologic function that might occur with multiple disturbances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-626
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1988


  • Bog
  • Discharge
  • Fen
  • Groundwater
  • Mire
  • Recharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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