Landscape influence on small-scale water temperature variations in a moorland catchment

J. J. Dick*, D. Tetzlaff, C. Soulsby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


We monitored temperatures in stream water, groundwater and riparian wetland surface water over 18months in a 3.2-km2 moorland catchment in the Scottish Highlands. The stream occupies a glaciated valley, aligned east-west. It has three main headwater tributaries with a large north facing catchment, a south facing catchment and the smallest east facing headwater. The lower catchment sampling locations begin after the convalescence of all three headwaters. Much of the stream network is fringed by riparian peatlands. Stream temperatures are mainly regulated by energy exchanges at the air-water interface. However, they are also influenced by inflows from the saturated riparian zone, where surface water source areas are strongly connected with the stream network. Consequently, the spatial distribution of stream temperatures exhibits limited variability. Nevertheless, there are significant summer differences between the headwaters, despite their close proximity to each other. This is consistent with aspect (and incident radiation), given the south and east facing headwaters having higher temperatures. The largest, north-facing sub-catchment shows lower summer diurnal temperature variability, suggesting that lower radiation inputs dampen temperature extremes. Whilst stream water temperature regimes in the lower catchment exhibit little change along a 1-km reach, they are similar to those in the largest headwater; probably reflecting size and comparable catchment aspect and hydrological flow paths. Our results suggest that different parts of the channel network and its connected wetlands have contrasting sensitivity to higher summer temperatures. This may be important in land management strategies designed to mitigate the impacts of projected climatic warming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3098-3111
Number of pages14
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number14
Early online date10 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Iain Malcolm and staff at Marine Scotland (Pitlochry) are thanked for the provision of data from the AWS. Finally, the two anonymous reviewers are greatly acknowledged for their constructive comments.


  • Connectivity
  • Moorland hydrology
  • Riparian zones
  • Runoff processes
  • Stream temperature
  • Thermal regime


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