About Ian Lawson

Lecturer at the University of St Andrews

New paper on Amazonian peatland forests

Freddie Draper and colleagues have a new paper in Ecography, online as an accepted article.

The paper, Peatland forests are the least diverse tree communities documented in Amazonia, but contribute to high regional beta-diversity, uses floristic data from a network of plots to show that peatland palm swamps and pole forests host distinctive floras.

Although, at the plot level, peatland forests are typically much less diverse than dry-land forests, the paper argues that they make a substantial contribution to regional beta diversity which, together with their dense below-ground carbon storage, enhances the case for conserving them.

This paper grew out of data and analyses conducted by Freddie during his NERC-funded PhD.

NERC project “Carbon Storage in Amazonian Peatlands: Distribution and Dynamics” begins

Our new NERC-funded project officially begins today, with the appointment of Dr Greta Dargie as a PDRA at St Andrews. Greta will be leading field and lab data collection, initially working with colleagues at IIAP in Iquitos.

Greta has been in the news recently in relation to her pioneering work in mapping Congolese peatlands: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/12/congo-basin-swamps-peatlands-carbon-climate-change.

Scottish Funding Council award

Dr Katy Roucoux, together with Prof. Nina Laurie, has been awarded £29,981.88 for a new project, “Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands”. The project will focus on understanding the ways in which the peatlands of the Pastaza-Marañón Basin, Peru, are used and valued by the communities who live around them. The project will run from January to May 2018.

New NERC grant

Ian Lawson, Katy Roucoux, Tim Baker, Ed Mitchard and Mat Williams have been awarded NERC funding to continue their research into Amazonian peatlands. The project, “Carbon Storage in Amazonian Peatlands: Distribution and Dynamics”, will run for three years and aims to improve our understanding of the distribution and functioning of these globally-significant ecosystems.

Tropical Peatlands at EGU

Ian Lawson convened a session on “Peatlands in the tropics and beyond”, along with Claudio Zanelli, Sue Page, Hinsby Cuadrillo-Quiroz, and Jorg Kaduk, at EGU in Vienna. The session took place, appropriately, in the basement, in a packed room. Talks spanned a range of topics, including conservation, biochemistry and palaeoecology, from sites across the tropics (and one site in the Mediterranean as well). The talks were followed in the evening by a very well-attended poster session, including a poster by Ian and Katy Roucoux.

New article in Conservation Biology on protecting intact tropical peatlands

In an article published this month in the journal Conservation Biology, Katy Roucoux and co-authors identify and map threats to the recently-described intact peatlands of the Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin (PMFB) in north-east Peru. We highlight the need to protect these peatlands to avoid future degradation, and identify several key pathways for conservation.
In our study area the main threat to peatlands appears to be the expansion of commercial agriculture linked to the development of new transport infrastructure, which makes it easier for companies to access remote areas. Although some of the peatlands in the PMFB were found to fall within existing legally protected areas such as national parks, this protection is patchy, weak and not focused on protecting the most carbon-rich areas.
The article points out the considerable opportunities for conserving carbon stocks while at the same time addressing social and economic development goals in the region. The UN Green Climate Fund project in Datem del Marañón is a good example of the potential for peatlands to attract substantial amounts of money that can be used for sustainable development.
The paper’s authors are based in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews (Roucoux, Lawson), the University of Leeds (Baker), University of Edinburgh (Mitchard), University of Reading (Kelly), Instituto de Investigacion de la Amazonía Peruana (del Castillo Torres, Honorio Coronado), Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC (Draper), Arizona State University (Lahteenoja), George Mason University (Gilmore), and the Field Museum, Chicago (Vriesendorp).
Link to the accepted manuscript: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12925/full