Talking peat with the public (in lockdown)!

A report from Adam Hastie, who recently took the plunge and was interviewed in a live, online forum, open to the public, about his work on mapping the Amazon’s peatlands.  Great work, Adam! 

I recently took part in an online interview and discussion about my current research with InterSci Edinburgh under the title “How understanding, mapping and protecting peat can help to limit climate change”. InterSci is an organisation led by postgraduate students at Edinburgh University with the aim of encouraging conversations about science and technology. The discussion began with me giving an introduction to my research and a general explanation of what tropical peatlands are and why they are an important component of the global carbon cycle. The host Agamemnon (no, thankfully not the ferocious king of ancient Mycenae!) then asked me a series of questions, including several tricky ones from the public! This was the first time I had given a talk freely open to the public and without any slides, so it was a new and interesting challenge. I definitely had to keep on my toes and think carefully about each answer, trying to make sure I explained things in an accessible and hopefully interesting way! InterSci are always looking for new speakers so I would encourage all of you wetland scientists out there to get involved!

The video can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/InterSciEd/videos/261548195216921/

Modelling (peat accumulation) in the USA

A short report from a recent trip Adam Hastie made to learn from colleagues at the University of New Hampshire, USA.

I recently went to visit Steve Frolking and Claire Treat at the University of New Hampshire (Durham) to learn how to use the HPMTrop model (Kurnianto et al., 2015). HPMTrop is a 1D model driven by water table variation, which simulates mass remaining in annual peat cohorts as a balance between vegetation inputs and decomposition. In other words, it creates a peat core profile and predicts how much of the accumulated peat is derived from leaves, wood and roots respectively (Fig. 1 left). I am using our field data from litter fall and decomposition bags (Fig. 1 right) in the Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin (PMFB) in Peru to parametrize the model to local conditions, so that we can investigate the hydrological and productivity limits to peat accumulation. The great thing about HPMTrop is that you can run it in a matter of minutes, and so can quickly see what effect changing this or that parameter has on rates of litter production and decomposition.

Fig. 1. Left- cohort mass from leaves, woods and roots by age as simulated by HPMTrop. Right-% mass of stem, root and leaf material at two field sites in the Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin in Peru; Nueva York 3 (NYO_03) and Veinte de Enero 2 (VEN_02). Data: Cesar Cordova, Jhon del Aguila Pasquel, Greta Dargie

I also had a great time with Steve (and his lovely family) and Clare in beautiful New Hampshire! I was very well looked after being taken out to micro-breweries, Asian fusion restaurants and a local Irish (with a little “Loch Lomond” thrown in!) music night a few of the highlights. I also visited a picturesque coastal town called Kittery where I met the local whale (see photo below) but sadly the town’s name was a blatant case of false advertising, I didn’t see one kitten!

Adam, posing with the local whale of Kittery!

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: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/12/congo-basin-swamps-peatlands-carbon-climate-change.

Freddie Draper joins the team

FreddyFreddie has joined us at Leeds to study for a PhD, having just completed a BSc (Hons) in Ecology at Aberdeen. He co-organised an expedition to work on Peruvian forests as part of his BSc.

Freddie will be working under the supervision of Katy Roucoux, Tim Baker and Ian Lawson on the past and present vegetation and carbon dynamics of Peruvian peat swamps.