Peatlands are the most important terrestrial carbon store globally and they could act as carbon sinks when either in pristine condition or restored. Globally, a large proportion of this habitat is degraded, releasing carbon, and contributing to the global climate emergency. Under increasing anthropogenic and natural pressures, such as peat erosion and grazing, peatland monitoring and restoration is key to restore the carbon sink function of peatlands across the globe. Blanket bogs are a rare type of ombrotrophic peatland located mainly in oceanic areas with high precipitation and low mean temperatures; however, their full distribution is still unknown, and recent research has described blanket bogs in areas with low precipitation highlighting the adaptability of this habitat.
This PhD opportunity is seeking for a candidate a project to assess peat erosion on blanket bogs in the Falkland Islands as part of our world-wide research assessing the distribution and degradation of blanket bogs globally (The Blanket Bog Project). The successful candidate will: (1) investigate the role of wildlife and livestock in peat erosion; (2) how they interact with peatland surfaces in the southern hemisphere with particular interest on Atlantic blanket bogs in the Falkland Islands and (3) assess the impact of climate change challenges in combination with livestock and wildlife pressures.
In collaboration with the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), you will undertake your field data collections in the Falkland Islands using different remote sensing techniques, such as Terrestrial Laser Scanning and satellite imagery to monitor peat erosion and assess historical peatland degradation. To investigate the role of livestock and wildlife, camera trapping and other remote sensing techniques will be key to understand how each species interacts with the landscape including sheep, penguins and seals across different locations on the islands.
This project will require working closely with farmers, the general public and SAERI to provide key information and recommendations for practitioners and governments to establish management techniques that improve the sustainable use of peatland environments. By understanding the role of both wildlife and livestock in peat erosion, we will be able to assess: (1) how best to use the land; and (2) understand the consequences of different species on peat erosion across the islands.