Principles of peat stratigraphy

Resource file(s):

This bundle contains materials for a laboratory practical where students work in small groups to describe and record a sediment core using the Troels-Smith method and to record the peat structure components for further analysis (calculation of the Dupont Hydroclimatic Index).

Original context:

This material was developed for first semester Level 5 (second year honours) students on Geography or Environmental Science Programmes, and has also been delivered to Zoology students (optional module).

This resource contains materials from two practical activities delivered as part of an Environmental Change module which were collectively assessed via a report on the environmental change record present in a core from a local fieldsite. In recent years students have not attended the field site themselves as part of this module, but have been shown video of the core being collected. In the first practical, they record the core stratigraphy and collect the first set of data. In the second, they use the peat structure recorded to infer past peat surface hydrology. The original module also includes practicals on sphaeroidal carbonaceous particles as a dating tool, on pollen counting, and on pollen diagram interpretation, and works throughout on material from a short (c. 50cm/300 year) core from the North York Moors.

The original practical sessions were each timetabled for 2 hours.


The assessment was a 2500 word report covering results from multiple practicals.

Materials included in the bundle:

Describing peat stratigraphy:

  • Slide deck introducing the peat stratigraphy practical
  • Describing a sediment core (handout with instructions for students, table defining Troels-Smith units and key to help students identify units)

Reconstructing peat surface hydrology:

  • Slide deck introducing the reconstructing peat surface hydrology practical
  • Calculating detrended Dupont Hydroclimatic Index values from peat structure data
  • Sample peat structure dataset (modified from a class dataset from a short core covering c. 300 years from the North York Moors).
Created by M Jane Bunting
on 2024-07-17