About Ian Lawson

Senior Lecturer at the University of St Andrews

New NERC grant to fund research on Amazonian peatlands

Picture of a fieldworker in dense palm swamp forest

Undertaking a forest census in a peatland palm swamp, Loreto, Peru

Ian Lawson, Katy Roucoux, Tim Baker (U. Leeds), Ed Mitchard and Mat Williams (U. Edinburgh) 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.

You can read more about our tropical peatland research on our dedicated website.

Three forthcoming meetings on tropical peatlands and palaeoecology

tropical-peat-coreThree meetings are on tropical peatlands and palaeoecology are being organised by members of the ECRG.

First is a session on tropical palaeoecology at the annual scientific meeting of the Society for Tropical Ecology (Gesellschaft für Tropenökologie, gtö), which will be hosted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium on 6-10 February 2017. Session 22, “Beyond what the eye can see: paleoecological insights into tropical ecosystem dynamics and functions“, will be co-convened by Dr Katy Roucoux. You can find out more about the meeting here.

Secondly, Dr Ian Lawson and colleagues are convening a session at the EGU Annual Congress in Vienna on 23-28 April 2017. Our session on Tropical Peatlands aims to produce a synthesis of our understanding of peatland form and function across the tropics, drawing on recent research in Amazonia and Africa in particular and supported by the PAGES C-PEAT working group. The call for abstracts closes on 11 January 2017.

Thirdly, PAGES C-PEAT is to host a workshop on tropical peats in Honolulu in spring/early summer 2017, co-organised by Ian Lawson – more details expected soon.

First ever Green Climate Fund project cites our research

Sampling in a peatland pole forest at San Jorge, Peru

The first project to be announced by the Green Climate Fund will be based in Datem del Marañón Province, Peru.

The science case for the proposal rests in part on our recent paper, Draper et al. (2014), published in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters. This work stemmed from the PhD research of Freddie Draper, who recently passed his viva. He was supervised by Katy Roucoux, Ian Lawson and Tim Baker (Leeds).

Our paper presented a spatially-explicit model of above- and below-ground carbon storage in the Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin, including – for the first time – the western part of the basin including Datem del Marañón. Our work made it clear that the province holds substantial peat deposits.

The UN-backed Green Climate Fund offers an exciting model for carbon-based conservation projects that explicitly aim to generate positive social justice and economic development outcomes. This first project involves initial funding of USD 9.11M.

New paper: tephra is reliably preserved in peat cores across a site

Tephra shard from the Eyjafjallajokull 2010 eruption“Spatial variability of tephra and carbon accumulation in a Holocene peatland” by Liz Watson et al. has just appeared in QSR. Liz is a PhD student at the University of Leeds, co-supervised by Ian Lawson. This study looked at fifteen peat cores from Fallahogy Mire, Northern Ireland, to test the extent to which records of cryptotephra from individual cores are representative of tephra distribution across the whole site. The three tephras searched for – Hekla 1947, Hekla 1845 and Hekla 1510 – were all present in 14 out of 15 cores. This should give us confidence that, on ombrotrophic, unforested mires at least, cryptotephra records are likely to be reasonably reliable even if based on a single record. On the other hand, the rate of carbon accumulation across the site turned out to be more variable than we expected, which has interesting implications for process-based studies of carbon sequestration on peatlands.