Sheep vs Sealions – Quantifying the human impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon stock of Falkland Island peatlands

Funding bodies: CENTA, Georgia Seafood’s

PhD affiliations: SAERI, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, University of Leicester, Natural History Museum, NERC

Project overview

The proportional extent of peat on the Falkland Islands rivals that of any other country at around 4529 km2 or approximately 43% of the land area. The nature of land use, ranging from grazing and drainage through to peat cutting, is thought to have resulted in these peatlands becoming a carbon source, in the region of 1,149,326 t CO2e yr-1. However, no direct measurements of greenhouse gas emissions from Falkland peat has been published; therefore, it is unknown whether these peatlands continue to sequester carbon or are now net sources of emissions. This project will begin to quantify greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from these systems and determine the influence of land use on GHG fluxes. It will investigate the underlying drivers of these emissions through organic geochemical analysis and microbiological techniques before upscaling findings to the wider Falklands landscape.

Project Objectives

  • GHG flux - Maintain static chamber sites for GHG flux measurements over a minimum of a six month period. Combine these fluxes with meterological, edaphic and vegetation data to determine key drivers of CO2 and CH4 Establish key drivers of NEE in Falkland Peat and use Earth Observation to upscale findings
  • Microbial community – Collect samples of microbial communities from across the Falklands, sequence and analyse these communities evaluating the richness and composition in peat at depth. Determine which parts of the community may be offering the greatest contribution to GHG flux
  • Organic geochemistry – Analyse full depth peat cores using FTIR to establish the structure of organic matter within Falkland Island peat, determine how this changes with depth or between sites. Use supplementary analytical techniques to determine the contribution of plants to organic matter, the presence of respiration end products to determine key zones of microbial activity and carbon cycling
  • Carbon stock - Contextualise gas flux data by carrying out wider surveys of the edaphic and vegetation conditions along with peat depth across the Falklands and under different grazing managements. Apply gas flux data to these sites to enable more accurate upscaling of results and understanding of total carbon stock.


Katy Ross

Supervisors: Prof Chris Evans, Prof Susan Page, Dr Steffi Carter, Dr Arnoud Boom, Dr Anne Jungblut, Dr Ross Morrison

Dates: Sept 2021 - March 2024
After graduating from the University of Exeter with a BSc in Conservation Biology and Ecology, Katy went on to work for Devon County Council as an ecologist before starting her PhD in 2021. Katy has previously carried out other research assistant roles including working on microplastics, disease vector transmission and sociological longitudinal studies however; she has always had a fascination for peat. Initially, volunteering for Durham Wildlife Trust she worked on the lowland raised bogs of the county before switching focus to blanket bogs with the North Pennines AONB. In 2019, she spent four months working with the RSPB in the Flow Country, Europe’s largest semi natural continuous blanket bog and working with researchers there inspired her to pursue this PhD.
Highlights 2022

Throughout June Katy has been working on her probation review including finalising research questions and directions for the next few years. In the Background Katy has been working to analyse the GHG flux data which was collected in March 2020, this is almost complete and the first round of data will hopefully be shared shortly. During her first trip to the Falklands Katy also took peat cores from each of her study sites, she is now working to process these through FTIR analysis, but first, all of these samples need to be freeze dried and milled. Katy will also be presenting some initial work internally at conferences held at the University of Leicester, Natural History Museum and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, where possible, these will be recorded and shared more widely. To encourage more people to get involved with soil science and carbon Katy is also supporting the running and coordination of the British Ecological Societies undergraduate summer school this July where she will be running sessions on measuring carbon fluxes, PhD’s and data analysis while supporting a group throughout the week.
PO Box 609, Stanley Cottage North
Ross Road, Falkland Islands
Stanley, FIQQ 1ZZ
Falkland Islands: +500 27374
UK Office: +44 (0)203 745 1731
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