Professor Susan Page

Professor of Physical GeographyDr Sue Page

Bennett Building F71

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3318




I am an ecologist and a biologist by training with research interests in wetland ecology and functioning and wildlife conservation. My current research primarily focuses on tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia, but I also supervise research projects on peatlands in South America, Central Africa, and on lowland peatlands in the UK.

Sue Page.jpg
Members of the project team investigating millennial scale peatland carbon dynamics - on location in Central Kalimantan (image: Angela Gallego-Sala)

Many people still find it hard to believe that there are extensive peatlands in the tropical zone: after all, peat bogs are usually associated with the cool, wet, midge-infested regions of the north! There are, however, approximately 450 km2 of peatlands in the tropics, mainly located in Indonesia and Malaysia, but also in South and Central America and central Africa.

In an undisturbed condition, peatlands in Southeast Asia support peat swamp forest, which provides a habitat for a number of rare and endangered species. Underground, the thick peat layers, accumulated over thousands of years and often exceeding a thickness of 10 m, store enormous amounts of carbon. Globally, tropical peatlands store ~90 billion tonnes of carbon and perform other important environmental and landscape functions (e.g. flood mitigation, wildlife habitat maintenance and livelihood support).

My research on tropical peatlands began in 1993 in Central Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. From 1998 onwards, I was a partner in various collaborative research programmes that investigated the ecology and natural resource functions of these systems, funded by the European Union (EU). Fieldwork was based in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia and elsewhere within the Southeast Asian region, and involved working with regional universities and research institutes. This work focused primarily on forest biodiversity and the role of tropical peatlands in the global carbon cycle, and the impact of forest fires and illegal logging on peatland biodiversity and sustainability. I subsequently also became interested in the ecological restoration of degraded peatlands. This is particularly relevant to the peatlands of Kalimantan, which have been severely impacted by land development projects, drainage, fire and illegal logging.

Working together with Dr Kevin Tansey and Agata Hoscilo, we investigated the role of fire in the land use dynamics and restoration of tropical peatlands, whilst Laura Graham explored the ecological and social barriers to regeneration of peat swamp forest.

More recent collaborations have been with Prof Vincent Gauci (Open University) and Professor Chris Evans (CEH, Bangor) on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) losses from tropical peatland catchments under different land covers. We currently co-supervise Matthew Kent (based at the OU) who is investigating the fate of fluvial DOC, specifically CO2 and CH4 evasion from the waterways draining intact and degraded peatlands, and Sarah Cook (based in the department) who is studying fluvial losses of DOC from oil palm plantations on peat. These students follow earlier pioneering work by Sam Moore on the scale of DOC losses from degraded tropical peatlands.

Other related strands of my research have included:

  • the application of ALOS-PALSAR radar to monitor forest degradation in peat swamp forests which was tackled by Matthew Waldram, as part of the NERC-funded NCEO carbon cycle theme
  • the effects of fire on peat biogeochemistry, which Leanne Milner investigated with the support of a university scholarship and the EU-funded REDD-ALERT project led by the James Hutton Institute
  • spatial modelling of peat swamp forest by Zamzam Hassan, focusing on her home country of Brunei
  • exploration of the ecological and cultural services provided by peat swamp forest fish by Sara Thornton
  • remote sensing of oil palm plantations on peat, being carried out by Valentin Louis.

My interests in tropical peatlands in South America and Central Africa have been enhanced by collaborations with Dr Outi Lahteenoja (formerly at University of Turku in Finland) and Dr Greta Dargie (former PhD student working with Prof Simon Lewis at University of Leeds), while in my own department, Wayne Murphy is investigating wetlands in the Peruvian Amazon as a regional source of methane and nitrous oxide, co-supervised by Dr Yit Arn Teh at University of Aberdeen.

My research has emphasised how important it is to convert scientific knowledge into policy and practice. This transfer of expertise and experience has led to inputs as a Lead Author for IPCC guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories and as an advisor to plantation companies.

Closer to home, we have a departmental research team focused on the fenlands of Eastern England, where schemes to manage former fenland now being used for agriculture under higher water tables could result in significant reductions in atmospheric carbon emissions. This work was started by former PhD student Dr Ross Morrison and continued by Dr Pan Gong and Alex Cumming, working with Dr Joerg Kaduk and Professor Heiko Balzter. The focus is on comparing the carbon balance of natural fenland versus rewetting pastures and agricultural land using eddy covariance techniques.

This work spun up into

  • a DEFRA funded project led by Professor Chris Evans (CEH), evaluating the greenhouse gas and carbon balance of lowland peatlands in England and Wales, the results of which will ultimately inform government policies on peatland use options
  • a NERC-funded project on soil security, led by Professor Davey Jones (Univ of Bangor)


Research areas

  • Disturbance-recovery cycles
  • Peatland ecosystems – temperate and tropical
  • GHG mitigation from peatlands under agriculture
  • Peat and forest ecosystem restoration
  • Peatland ecosystem services

I am interested in supervising students on the following topics:

  • Impact of fire on tropical peatland ecosystem functions and recovery
  • Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from drained peatlands
  • Peatland restoration
  • Peatland ecosystem services and their valuation

Current students

  • Carla Gomez (based at the Open University) - Cycling of powerful greenhouse gases in tropical wetland trees (with Professor V Gauci and Dr Karen Olsson-Francis)
  • Kampanat Deeudomchan - Carbon stock assessment in Thailand from satellite remote sensing (with Professor H Balzter)
  • Sarah Cook - 'Fluvial carbon losses from oil palm plantations on peatlands in SE Asia' (with Dr M Whelan, Geography, Professor V Gauci, Open University and Professor C Evans, CEH)
  • Valentin Louis – ‘Remote sensing of forest and plantation dynamics’ (with Professor H Balzter, CLCR and Dr D Fox, Geospatial Insight)
  • Alex Cumming – ‘The greenhouse gas balance of fenland used for agriculture’ (with Professor H Balzter, CLCR and Dr J Kaduk)
  • Matthew Kent (based at the Open University) – ‘DOC dynamics of tropical peatlands’ (with Professor V Gauci, Open University and Professor C Evans, CEH)
  • Akihito Kono – ‘Effect of sectoral policies and institutional coordination on forests and sustainable forest management in the context of REDD+’ (with Dr C Upton)
  • Wayne Murphy – ‘Role of Amazonian peatlands in carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions’ (with Dr A Boom & Dr J-C Berrio and Dr Yit Arn Teh, University of Aberdeen)
  • Sara Thornton – Ecosystem and cultural values of peat swamp forest fish in Central Kalimantan (with Dr C Upton)

Completed students

  • Gong Pan – The greenhouse gas balance of a restoring fenland (with Professor H Balzter & Dr J Kaduk)
  • Greta Dargie (based at University of Leeds) - Tropical peatlands and carbon storage in the Congo Basin (with Professor Simon Lewis, University of Leeds)
  • Zamzam  Hassan - Species and microclimate spatial modelling in peat swamp forest, Brunei (with Dr C Jarvis)
  • Bashar Dahdal - The use of interferometric spaceborne radar and GIS to measure ground subsidence from peat soils in Indonesia (with Professor K Tansey and Professor H Balzter).
  • Laura Graham - Restoration from Within - Developing Restoration Action Plans Through Ecological and Community Knowledge in Kalimantan, Indonesia (with Professor J Pickerill).
  • Gabriel Eshun - Community participation in natural resource management and ecotourism development in Ghana (with Dr C Madge).
  • Agata Hoscilo - The role of fire in the land use dynamics and restoration of tropical peatlands: developing techniques to assess post-fire vegetation recovery, fire risk and the emission of greenhouse gases (with Professor K Tansey).
  • Shujaul Khan – Phytosociological and ethnobotanical studies in the Naran Valley, Pakistan (with Professor D Harper, Dept. Biological Sciences)
  • Outi Lähteenoja – Amazonian peatlands (visiting PhD student from the University of Turku, Finland)
  • Leanne Milner – Effects of fire on the biogeochemistry of tropical peatland (with Dr A Boom)
  • Kate Moore - Indigenous spatial literacy to inform participatory GIS in wildlife conservation (with Dr C Madge).
  • Ross Morrison – The carbon balance of a restoring fenland (with Professor H Balzter and Dr J Kaduk)
  • Sam Moore (based at the Open University) – Dissolved organic carbon losses from natural and degraded tropical peatlands (with Dr V Gauci, Open University and Professor C Evans, CEH)
  • Dr Tetsuya Shimamura – JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow – Biodiversity and carbon dynamics in tropical peat swamp forest
  • Matthew Waldram – Tropical deforestation and the carbon cycle (with Professor K Tansey)

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