Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG)
Université Laval
Hydrology / ecohydrology

Water is one of the main prerequisites for the development of peatlands. The restoration of peatlands seeks to reestablish a plant cover dominated by Sphagnum or brown mosses depending on the substrate minerotrophy, as well as a hydrological regime typical of peatlands.


Sphagnum-dominated peatlands (bogs and poor fens) are characterized by a strong relationship between vegetation and hydrology. The highly fibric and porous structure of the Sphagnum carpet can store atmospheric water and limits considerably water table fluctuations. In natural bogs, the Sphagnum mosses keep the eco-hydrologic self-regulating systems favorable to their own growth.


In peatland management, it might appear easy to reverse the effects of drainage by simply rewetting. In reality, new soil profile conditions have developed after peat utilization, and these differ significantly from the natural mire soil profile of any former developmental stage. Therefore, restoration actions, especially after peat cutting or agricultural management, should consider the restoration site as a new environment with new physical properties, especially on the upper layer of the soil column.


Restored sites are usually monitored for the return of hydrological functions.


Hydrology and ecohydrology of peatlands 1994

Studies in peatland  hydrology and ecohydrology cover a multitude of topics. From the first tests of peatland restoration in the 1990s, the team of Jonathan S. Price (Department of Geography, University of Waterloo), in collaboration with that of James Michael Waddington (Department of Geography and Geology, McMaster University), and now with that of Maria Strack (Department of Geography, University of Waterloo), focused on relationships between soil moisture, water tension, hydraulic conductivity and water table in the restored, non restored and natural regeneration peatlands, as well as the movement dynamics of water. Other work has focused on the drainage of peatlands, the compression of the peat, the peatland shrinkage, the water storage capacity and water balance in general. Simulation models of the peatland water dynamics were prepared.

Series of wells located along a wooden boardwalk to measure the depth of the water table in the bog of Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse, Quebec (Phot: J. Zhou).

Over time, research has enabled better understanding of the hydrological factors and thresholds which allow the establishment and growth of Sphagnum. Thus emerged two of the essential steps of the peat bogs restoration method developed by the PERG. The first is the addition of straw mulch on reintroduced plant diaspores, thus reducing water loss by evaporation and maintaining a favorable microclimate for the establishment of Sphagnum at the air-ground surface. The second step is the blocking of drainage ditches that keeps water on the site and improves its distribution.

Measurement of water level within the wells (Photo: J. Zhou).

More recently, the work of hydrology laboratory focused on the impact of coastal peatlands contamination by salt water and on the effects of salinity on the growth of grass plants.

Research in hydrology of peatlands is continuing under the 3rd term of the Industrial Research Chair in Peatland Management and the NSERC-CRD grant.
For more information on the research on hydrology and ecohydrology bogs, you can consult the Dr. Jonathan S. Price's website.
Project's publication(s) & communication(s)


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