About Ian Lawson

Lecturer at the University of St Andrews

New publication on Congo’s peatlands in Nature

Elephant footprints in peat

Forest elephant footprints in peat in the Cuvette Centrale, Congo

A new paper led by Greta Dargie and co-authored by Ian Lawson in Nature reports the existence of 145,000 km2 of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale of the Congo Basin. We estimate carbon storage at around 31.4 Gt C. This discovery increases the best estimate of carbon storage in tropical peatlands by about 30%.

The paper, available online early, can be found here. The research has been reported by, among others, the BBC, the Guardian, and the Conversation.

New paper on the palaeoecology of a raised peatland, San Jorge

A newCoring at San Jorge paper in Palaeo3 by our group is now online here. The paper, “The vegetation history of an Amazonian domed peatland” by Kelly et al., reports the first pollen record from a domed mire in Amazonia. The record includes the first evidence from the region for discontinuous peat accumulation, which suggests that carbon sequestration may be sensitive to changes in boundary conditions (including climate). The record indicates that, unlike some domed peatlands in Panama and SE Asia, the pattern of change down-core appears not to match the spatial pattern of vegetation across the site. Finally, it indicates that the present-day vegetation at the site, a type of pole forest, has only been present in its current form for c. 200 years. Overall the record shows that these systems are impressively dynamic, with several substantial changes in vegetation composition over the ~2000 years that peat has been accumulating at the site. This work was funded by a NERC grant to Katy Roucoux et al., and by Tom Kelly’s NERC-funded PhD project, with additional fieldwork support from the RGS.

EGU session on tropical peatlands

EGUIan Lawson and colleagues from the UK Tropical Peat Working Group are organizing a session on “Tropical Peatlands” at EGU in April 2017. The call for abstracts is open with a deadline of 11 January 2017. All submissions welcome! The details of the session are here – the hope is to stimulate comparisons of peatlands across the tropics, building particularly on recent results from the Americas and Africa, but also benefiting from progress in SE Asia.

Tropical wetlands in a global context: PAGES C-PEAT meeting

IMG_20151012_114253371PAGES C-PEAT is a new working group on the long-term history of peatlands around the globe. Drawing mainly on geological (including Holocene) perspectives, the group aims to synthesize our understanding of past change in peatland ecosystems and use that to help predict their future. Ian Lawson presented a summary of the group’s work on Pastaza-Marañón Basin peatlands at C-PEAT’s inaugural meeting at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New Jersey. This was one of a number of papers emphasizing the vulnerability of tropical peatlands to land-use change. Mapping future threats to peatlands – and opportunities for conservation – emerged as the basis of a new theme for the working group, which will be co-led by Ian.

Updates on deforestation in Loreto, Perú

Two recent reports suggest that the potential threats to Amazonian peatlands from deforestation for oil palms and cacao, and gold mining and other extractive industries, are growing. The EIA published a particularly critical report last month, and MAAP also claims to have found evidence of significant deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in its analyses of LandSat imagery. This raises the concern that the relatively unglamorous and little-known, but very carbon-dense peatlands in Loreto (Draper et al. 2014) could come under pressure if (often very badly needed) agricultural and industrial development is deflected away from terra firme forest.

Congratulations to Dr Tom Kelly

Tom at workTom Kelly passed his PhD viva at the University of Leeds, with well-deserved commendations from his examiners Rob Marchant (University of York) and David Galbraith (Leeds). His supervisors (Ian Lawson, Katy Roucoux and Tim Baker) are very proud!

Tom has already led or contributed to several papers through his research, and we look forward to seeing several more emerge over the next few months.