UKPopNet (NERC) initiative (York)

The NERC funded UKPopNet initiative investigated "how changes in biodiversity will affect the sustainability of ecosystems, landscapes and livelihoods"

The major UKPopNet aims were to assess:

    • How will changes in biodiversity affect the sustainability of ecosystems, landscapes, and livelihoods?
    • What strategies should we employ to mitigate adverse effects?

As part of this aim it funded several projects throughout 2004 till 2010 in various UK ecosystems, one of which was focused on upland regions in Wales across the Lake Vyrnwy catchment. Within this research area one group of scientists (drawing on expertise from York, Durham and Leeds) looked at the net ecosystem exchange of carbon (NEE) on blanket bog, particularly in relation to vegetation and topography. On the back of this work the MILLENNIA peatland model was developed (Heinemeyer et al., 2010), which is now applied within this project and is used at the University of York for predicting management effects on ecosystem services, such as bird populations (Carroll et al., 2015).

The York peat C dynamics work focused on:

  • How do different measurement scales affect NEE estimates?
  • How does vegetation composition relate to long-term peat accumulation?
  • How does topography affect the water and carbon dynamics?
  • How do we best model long-term spatial peat dynamics?

Transect work

We set up four transects with different aspects and across similar ranges of slope to investigate relationships of temperature, water balance and peat depth.

A major issue seems to be runoff and related erosion of peat material, leading to sharply reduced peat depth above slopes of 10°, particularly with a southern inclination.

NEE and carbon fluxes

We instrumented a flux site with two adjacent eddy covariance flux towers over blanket bog areas and measured the NEE over 9 month in 2009.

Within the footprint of these flux towers we also measured with manual chambers, either in the light (allowing photosynthesis) or with shading (only respiration) and did this over soil and different vegetation patches (Calluna, sedges, Sphagnum).

UKPopNet field site (Eunant catchment at Lake Vyrnwy, Wales)

Topographic transects at Vyrnwy in relation to peat depth

'Breaking down' of NEE fluxes into C uptake and C release from plants and soil