PhD Student Katy returns to the Falklands

Katy Ross

Katy returned to the Falklands at the end of September to resume data collection for her PhD, looking at the impacts of land use on greenhouse gas emissions from Falkland Islands peat. Katy has several field sites now set up which look at contrasting grazing regimes such as set stocking, holistic management and the exclusion of grazing, to try to understand which of these may best support carbon sequestration within the landscape. She also has both coastal and inland sites where she is trying to determine which native plants offer the greatest contribution to carbon uptake.

After speaking to landowners on her last visit, it became apparent that one of the main concerns for farmers is not necessarily carbon lost as carbon dioxide or methane from the land, but the volume of peat blowing away due to erosion. Therefore, Katy has now set up a suite of windblown sediment traps, which are already collecting peat sediment and will help us quantify how much carbon is blowing away from eroding areas.

The Shackleton Scholarship fund was also generous in awarding Katy a grant which allowed her to purchase 10 continuous soil moisture and temperature loggers which will help us see what the long term changes in soil moisture are. Peatlands must be kept wet as this prevents the decomposition and breakdown and rerelease of carbon back into the atmosphere, these loggers now set up across Katy’s field sites will help us monitor the long-term changes in peat condition and predict what may happen with Falkland peat as the climate changes.

In the background, Katy is also working on writing up her results from the peat cores she took last March. She is aiming to better understand the organic chemistry of peat in the Falklands and determine why it is present when the climate is much drier than in other areas where peat forms. She is looking to see if there are any special plant compounds, which are helping to slow the rate of decay and how these may vary across the Falklands or how decomposition may vary throughout the past 11,000 years of peat formation.

Katy has also been working with a few landowners to help them better understand the carbon stock and value of their peatlands while supporting other projects in data collection and analysis.

Image left:
To determine the carbon content of peat samples are put in a furnace. Organic matter will burn off while the mineral ash component remains. This ash can often be diverse in colour despite samples being collected within a few hundred meters of each other.

Image right:
A wind-blown sediment trap at Cape Pembroke, which collects eroding peat blowing across the landscape
Image right:
Equipment for measuring the emissions and uptake of carbon dioxide and methane. The yellow box is an infrared gas analyser. This measures the changing concentrations of gasses coming in and out of the diddledee and ground within the clear chamber.

Katy is hoping to share some results soon, so look out for advertisements for a ‘Peaty-Pals’ meeting in the New Year.

You can also see how she measures greenhouse gases in SAERI’s time-lapse video. If you want to hear more about the project or get involved contact or follow along with her research on Twitter at @girl_in_a_bog


Collaborators on the project include the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the University of Leicester and the Natural History Museum. Katy's PhD supervisors include Dr Steffi Carter, Prof Chris Evans, Prof Sue Page, Dr Anne Jungblut, Dr Arnoud Boom and Dr Ross Morrison. And a huge thank you to local sponsors Georgia Seafoods

PO Box 609, Stanley Cottage North
Ross Road, Falkland Islands
Stanley, FIQQ 1ZZ
Falkland Islands: +500 27374
UK Office: +44 (0)203 745 1731
© Copyright 2022 - SAERI
envelopephone-handsetmap-marker linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram