Peatlands Research

Jessica Wiseman
Sunday 8 January 2023

In the School of Geography and Sustainability, Dr Ian Lawson’s work concerns peatlands in Amazonia and the Congo. These peatlands are a vital source of carbon storage but these stores are potentially vulnerable to human interference and climate change – peatlands can easily become huge sources of carbon to the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. 

Ian’s PhD student, George Biddulph, undertook an internship with the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) to write a policy brief about their work in the Congo Basin. Noting the importance of inclusive decision making in effective conservation of peatlands in the Congo, the brief drew from findings from the 2022 Global Peatlands Assessment (UNEP) to identify several key areas of importance for peatland protection and management. 

George’s thesis is part of a much larger NERC-funded project, CongoPeat, whose aim is to investigate the past, present and future of these newly discovered peat swamp forests found in the Congo Basin.

The work is part of broader research which aims to understand the genesis, development and maintenance of peatland complex, and focuses on the spatial palaeoecology of the peat swamp forests that reside within the central Congo Basin.

Dr Lawson has published and presented on the core science underpinning our understanding of the sensitivity of peatland carbon stores to change, and on the potential impacts of oil exploration both on the peatlands themselves and on the communities that depend upon them for their livelihoods. 

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