Our project is divided into three main Work Packages (WPs):
WP1: ‘Hydrological Status of Degraded and Restored Peatlands’: Collecting and analysing baseline hydrological data is key to establishing function in peatland restoration and is essential for comparison with the structural information to emerge from WP2. Work within WP1 will involve collation of existing data and metadata for the field sites, and installation of an automatic weather station and piezometer(s) to monitor environmental conditions from Q1 2021 until Q4 2022 (see figure below).
WP2: ‘Structure and Function of Degraded, Pristine and Restored Peatlands’: Sampling, 3D X-Ray µCT scanning, and analysing large (15cm diameter) core samples recovered from pristine, degraded, and restored peatlands enables examination of the structural properties and interpretation of functional behaviour. ~15 samples will be extracted (2 separate field campaigns: 5 samples in campaign 1, up to 10 in campaign 2), scanned, and reconstructed at a specialist facility at Queen Mary University of London. Analysis of root, necromass, and pore-space components will enable interpretation and quantification of the hydrological function of peatlands under different restoration models and comparison with pristine and degraded peatlands.
WP3: ‘Carbon Cost, Storage and Source Evaluation of Peatland Restoration’: Involves three key strands of laboratory and metadata analysis: 1: Derivation of solid organic carbon stocks within pristine, degraded, and restored peatlands, based upon gravimetric analysis (loss on Ignition) to quantify total carbon stock within peatlands over short to long timescales; 2: Derivation of CO2 emissions from peatlands, using in situ portable gas analysers; 3: Carbon budgeting analysis of direct carbon costs (vehicle emissions, materials etc..) and indirect carbon costs/savings associated with traditional versus innovative methods of peatland restoration. Carbon stock and budget quantification will use the methodologies evaluated by Petrokofsky et al. (2012: Envt. Evid. 1, 6: 21pp) to quantify and compare carbon reductions/emissions associated with different peatland restoration over short to long timescales. This will then inform an evaluation and guidance on site evaluation and construction of an intervention decision-tree for commercial practice and implementation.
WP1 delivers critical baseline data that is essential for evaluating peatland function, required to provide context for analysis in WP2. WP2 and WP3 will deliver completely original and innovative research outcomes, with WP2 addressing the project Research Aim, and WP3 addressing the Stakeholder Aim.