Our projects focus on how energy, nutrients, and species move across ecosystems and how this influences the benefits that ecosystems deliver to people in terms of carbon storage, water quality, food production, and biodiversity.   

 

Recovery is RELATED: Restoring Ecosystems by Linking Aquatic and Terrestrial Ecological Dynamics (2014 - 2018, NERC Standard grant NE/L006561/1)

For the past 4 years, most of our group has worked on the RELATED project.  The aim of RELATED has been to simulate how forest greening and changes in forest composition associated with climate warming might impact the productivity and carbon cycling of northern lakes.  Our focus in RELATED has been on sediments at the interface between land and water, where most forest debris is deposited. 

Lakes move vast amounts of plant material from land to sea - almost as much as humans put into the atmosphere from burning fossils fuels - and much of this gets buried into sediment (the mud at the bottom of a lake!).  This plant material is really important because it provides external resources to the organisms that live in lakes.  Organisms, such as microbes and invertebrates, can use this material to grow larger, moving this energy upwards through the food web and provide more food for larger species like fish.  But they can also produce more greenhouse gasses by consuming this material.

In RELATED, we developed a novel experimental platform for studying lake sediments.  We replicated this platform across multiple lakes and have been intensively sampling microbial and invertebrate communities, greenhouse gas production, and water quality.  You can learn more about the RELATED project below:

 
 

Loosening the pipes on the global carbon cycle: The Fate of old carbon in receiving waters (2017 - 2018, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the NERC Arctic Office)

With collaborators at the University of Alberta, we have started investigating the fate of terrestrial organic matter in Arctic landscapes.  Carbon stored deep in Arctic peatlands for centuries may be released by increasing permafrost thaw and wildfire, causing these widespread landscapes to switch to net carbon sources.  Old carbon may also influence the productivity of aquatic organisms downstream of burned catchments, but this has never been explored.  We have been working along a latitudinal gradient in permafrost coverage, combining radiocarbon dating of fluvial carbon from burned and unburned catchments with stable isotope mixing models that have traced the entry of aged material into modern food webs.

We are now looking to expand this work and are offering a competitively funded PhD studentship for UK residents.