About Ian Lawson

Lecturer at the University of St Andrews

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.

New paper in Wetlands Ecology and Management

Lawson et al. 2014 WEMLawson et al. “Improving estimates of carbon storage and flux in tropical peatlands” is now online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11273-014-9402-2/fulltext.html. The paper was developed by members of the UK Tropical Peatlands Working Group and reflects the group’s ambition to work more closely together, using comparable research methods, in order to improve our understanding of carbon stocks and fluxes in the tropics.

New paper in Environmental Research Letters identifies the most carbon-dense ecosystem in Amazonia

Draper BBC smallDraper et al. “The distribution and amount of carbon in the largest peatland complex in Amazonia” shows, using a wide range of new field data, that peatland pole forest is the most carbon-dense type ecosystem in Amazonia, when below-ground carbon storage is taken into account. This work also revised the central estimate for carbon storage in the Pastaza-Marañón Fan to 3.14 Pg distributed across 35,600 km2 of peatland, though the uncertainties on these figures remain large. The paper is available open-access online at http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/12/124017. It also received coverage by the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30448519).

New paper in Wetlands

WetlandsLawson et al. “The geochemistry of Amazonian peats” is available at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13157-014-0552-z. This paper discusses new and existing geochemical data from Quistococha, Peru, and attempts to build a framework for interpreting peat chemistry. This is an important tool for understanding the processes of peat accumulation and decay, and ecosystem functioning.

New radiocarbon dates

A further radiocarbon allocation in support of Tom Kelly’s project, “Peatland development and sensitivity to climatic change at two sites in Amazonian Peru” (PI Ian Lawson), has been awarded. This is a NERC radiocarbon allocation, number 1747.1013, approximate value £6960.