For Peat’s Sake: expert investigates tropical peatland in Southeast Asia

Posted by er134 at May 08, 2013 01:25 PM |
Peatland researcher to give Inaugural public lecture at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 14 May

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 8 May 2013

Photograph of Professor Susan Page available from er134@le.ac.uk

Fascinating peatland ecosystems play a key role in the global cycle – however urgent action is required to protect them from human impact.

Professor Susan Page, from the Department of Geography will give her Inaugural public lecture, For Peat’s Sake: Understanding the Vulnerability of the Tropical Peat Carbon Pool at the University of Leicester on Tuesday 14 May.

The lecture will explore Southeast Asia, where the largest area of tropical peatland is located, and the particular role that tropical peatlands play in the global carbon cycle, with the focus on the impact of human activities that have increased the vulnerability of their carbon pools.

Peatland ecosystems develop where dead vegetation (carbon) accumulates as peat in water-saturated, anoxic conditions. This accumulation can continue over thousands of years, and they cover somewhere between 400 and 600 million hectares – about the same land area occupied by tropical rainforest, and collectively store around 500 to 600 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to the amount of carbon located in all of the world’s vegetation.

Professor Susan Page is an ecologist and a biologist by training but her key research interest is in wetland ecology and functioning and wildlife conservation. Professor Page’s research is focused on the tropical peatlands of Southeast Asia – the topic of her Inaugural lecture.

Professor Susan Page said: "Tropical peatlands, with their high water tables and low decomposition rates, form vast stores of organic carbon tens of metres thick. Most of it is found in Indonesia, where the natural peat swamp forests (also home to endangered animal species such as orangutans) are increasingly being destroyed by deforestation, drainage and fire, to make way for agriculture, in particular oil palm for biofuels and food.

“My research work has shown that the carbon debt associated with recent wildfires and the conversion of peatlands to agriculture, particularly for plantations, is enormous and that the scale of greenhouse gas emissions needs to be taken into account in any assessment of the impact of land use change.”

For Peat’s Sake: Understanding the Vulnerability of the Tropical Peat Carbon Pool will be held at the Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Leicester, University Road, on Tuesday 14 May at 5.30pm. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ends

Notes:

Professor Susan Page can be contacted on 0116 252 3318 or at: sep5@le.ac.uk

Biography of Professor Susan Page

Professor Susan Page has BSc and PhD degrees from the University of Nottingham. She has held lecturer, senior lecturer and reader positions at the University of Leicester, initially in the Department of Adult Education (now the Institute for Lifelong Learning) and subsequently in the Department of Geography, where she was promoted to a personal chair in 2012 and is the current Head of Department.

For the last 20 years her research has focused on the ecology and carbon dynamics of tropical peatlands and she is the 2013 recipient of the Busk Medal for research work towards the conservation of peatlands in Indonesia. She has been a partner in several European Union and UK research council funded research programmes investigating these under-studied ecosystems, involving collaborations with UK, European and Southeast Asian partners.

When Professor Page commenced her research studies, most tropical peatlands were still in a pristine, forested condition, but over the last two decades she has seen significant changes in land use, with vast areas of peat swamp forest deforested, drained and converted to large scale agricultural enterprises and extensively damaged by wildfires.

These events have provided Professor Page with a rapidly changing backdrop for her research activities that, in turn, have led to advisory roles to government bodies and NGOs, consultancy contracts and her appointment as a Lead Author to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

She has authored more than 100 journal papers, books, book chapters and technical reports, and has supervised more than 20 PhD students.

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