1. Discoloration of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tape has been used in peatland ecological and hydrological studies as an inexpensive way to monitor changes in water-table depth and reducing conditions.
2. We investigated the relationship between depth of PVC tape discoloration and measured water-table depth at monthly time steps during the growing season within nine kettle peatlands of northern Wisconsin. Our specific objectives were to: (1) determine if PVC discoloration is an accurate method of inferring water-table depth in Sphagnum-dominated kettle peatlands of the region; (2) assess seasonal variability in the accuracy of the method; and (3) determine if systematic differences in accuracy occurred among microhabitats, PVC tape colour and peatlands.
3. Our results indicated that PVC tape discoloration can be used to describe gradients of water-table depth in kettle peatlands. However, accuracy differed among the peatlands studied, and was systematically biased in early spring and late summer/autumn. Regardless of the month when the tape was installed, the highest elevations of PVC tape discoloration showed the strongest correlation with midsummer (around July) water-table depth and average water-table depth during the growing season.
4. The PVC tape discoloration method should be used cautiously when precise estimates are needed of seasonal changes in the water-table.
Additional publication details
Discoloration of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tape as a proxy for water-table depth in peatlands: validation and assessment of seasonal variability