Plymouth Peatland Research Group
Peatlands are a type of wetland that are typically characterised by a deep organic layer, but differ globally in their hydrology, chemistry and subsequent vegetation composition.
We are a group of scientists, based primarily in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, who are interested in the (paleo)ecology, biogeochemistry and archaeology of peatland ecosystems.
Our research falls into the thematic areas of peatland ecosystem services, restoration practice, and impacts of disturbance regimes on peatland function.  
Within the ecosystem services theme, projects focus on regulatory and cultural services.  We are working with partners to understand carbon sequestration and storage in temperate peatlands (e.g., the NERC and Southwest Water-funded work on methanogenesis). Our work in lowland temperate peatlands also covers elements of water quality (a key provisioning service).  Within the cultural services branch, we focus on the place of peatlands in community heritage, the importance of the Historic Environment in both lowland and upland temperate peatlands and use the peatland archive to evaluate long-term changes in the terrestrial biosphere.
Our contributions around restoration practice include monitoring the recovery of above-ground peatland systems following interventions and providing specialist advice and input to planning restoration practices (particularly around how to assess and integrate cultural services into management of peatlands). For example, both Dr Paul Lunt and Professor Ralph Fyfe co-authored technical reviews for the IUCN peatlands review through the 2010s and provide specialist advice to landscape-scale restoration projects, and Professor Ralph Fyfe sits of the advisory board of the Southwest Peatlands Partnership.
Our research within the themes of peatland disturbance and resilience includes fundamental work on wildfire and anthropogenic activities across both North America and Europe (e.g. the PeakFireRes project). Our work integrates stakeholders throughout the research process to drive positive change in management and mitigate risk to peatland functioning (e.g., collaboration with the Boreal Ecosystem Recovery and Assessment project). 
We use a combination of long-term (decadal to millennial) and contemporary approaches to understanding peatland functioning, using palaeoecological methods to complement and extend modern monitoring practice and real-time carbon flux and vegetation measurements. This allows us to understand the impact of historic and recent disturbances on ecological processes (e.g. the Reclaiming Exmoor project and the Wet Woodlands Research Network). These insights are shared with peatland managers through individual project networks with key stakeholders, and wider University-level events such as themed annual Research Festival events.
Peatland, Slapton, Devon
Burned peatland in Canada
Peat core
Treed peatland in Canada

Key publications


Girkin, N.T. and Davidson, S.J. (2024) Protect peatlands to achieve climate goals. Science. 383, 490-490 DOI
Wilkinson, S.L., McCarter, C., Nwaishi, F., Noble, A., Muh, T. and Davidson, S.J. (2024) Climate Impacts of Anthropogenic Disturbances: Understudied Anthropogenic Disturbances and Peatland Carbon Cycling. in Peatlands and Climate Change 2nd Edition, Ed. Maria Strack, International Peatland Society
Davidson, S.J., Davies, M.A., Wegener, E., Claussen, S., Schmidt, M., Peacock, M. and Strack, M. (Preprint) Carbon stocks and fluxes from a boreal conifer swamp: filling a knowledge gap for modelling the boreal C cycle In review at JGR Biogeosciences DOI


Best, K., Zona, D., Briant, E., Lai, C-T., Lipson, D., McEwing, K., Davidson, S.J. and Oechel, W. (2023) Response of CO2 and CH4 emissions from arctic tundra soils to a multifactorial manipulation of water table, temperature and thaw depth. Environmental Research: Ecology, DOI
Girkin, N.T., Burgess, P.J., Cole, L., Cooper, H.V., Coronado, E.H., Davidson, S.J., Hannam, J., Harris, J., Holman, I., McCloskey, C.S., McKeown, M.M., Milner, A.M., Page, S., Smith, J. and Young, D. (2023) The three-peat challenge: business as usual, responsible agriculture, and conservation and restoration as management trajectories in global peatlands. Carbon Management, 14:1, 2275578, DOI
Peacock, M. Davidson, S.J., Kothawala. D.N., Segersten, J. and Futter, M. (2023) Spatial and Seasonal Variations in Dissolved Methane Across a Large Lake. JGR Biogeosciences, DOI
McCarter, C.P.R., Clay, G.D., Wilkinson, S.L., Page, S., Shuttleworth, E.L., Davidson, S.J., Taufik, M., Sigmund, G. and Waddington, J.M. (2023) Peat fires and the unknown risk of legacy metal and metalloid pollution. Environmental Research Letters, DOI
Wilkinson, S.L., Andersen, R., Morris, P., Davidson, S.J., Granath, G. and Waddington, J.M. (2023) Wildfire and degradation accelerate northern peatland carbon release. Nature Climate Change, DOI
Prystupa, E., Davidson, S.J., Price, J. and Strack, M. (2023) Response of Dissolved Organic Carbon Dynamics to Salinity in a Constructed Fen Peatland in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Hydrological Processes, DOI


Strack, M., Davidson, S.J., Hirano, T. and Dunn, C. (2022) The potential of peatlands as nature-based climate solutions, Current Climate Change Reports, DOI

Davidson SJ, Daze E, Byun E, Hiler D, Kangur M, Talbot J, Finkelstein S & Strack M (2022) 'The unrecognized importance of carbon stocks and fluxes from Swamps in Canada and the USA' Environmental Research Letters, DOI Open access

Nelson PR, Maguire AJ, Pierrat Z, Orcutt EL, Yang D, Serbin S, Frost GV, Macander MJ, Magney TS & Thompson DR (2022) 'Remote Sensing of Tundra Ecosystems using High Spectral Resolution Reflectance: Opportunities and Challenges' Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, DOI Open access

Schmidt M, Davidson SJ & Strack M (2022) 'CO2 uptake decreased and CH4 emissions increased in first two years of peatland seismic line restoration' Wetlands Ecology and Management 30, (2) 313-329, DOI


Davidson SJ, Goud EM, Malhotra A, Estey CO, Korsah P & Strack M (2021) 'Linear Disturbances Shift Boreal Peatland Plant Communities Toward Earlier Peak Greenness' Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 126, (8) , DOI

Davidson SJ, Smith M, Prystupa E, Murray K, Nwaishi FC, Petrone RM & Strack M (2021) 'High sulfate concentrations maintain low methane emissions at a constructed fen over the first seven years of ecosystem development' Science of The Total Environment 789, 148014-148014 , DOI

Drever CR, Cook-Patton SC, Akhter F, Badiou PH, Chmura GL, Davidson SJ, Desjardins RL, Dyk A, Fargione JE & Fellows M (2021) 'Natural climate solutions for Canada' Science Advances 7, (23) , DOI

Elmes MC, Davidson SJ & Price JS (2021) 'Ecohydrological interactions in a boreal fen–swamp complex, Alberta, Canada' Ecohydrology 14, (7) , DOI Open access

Engering A, Davidson SJ, Xu B, Bird M, Rochefort L & Strack M (2021) 'Restoration of a boreal peatland impacted by an <scp>in‐situ</scp> oil sands w <scp>ell‐pad</scp> 2: Greenhouse gas exchange dynamics' Restoration Ecology 30, (3) , DOI

Harris LI, Richardson K, Bona KA, Davidson SJ, Finkelstein SA, Garneau M, McLaughlin J, Nwaishi F, Olefeldt D & Packalen M (2021) 'The essential carbon service provided by northern peatlands' Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment , DOI

Irvine S, Davidson SJ, Price JS & Strack M (2021) 'Dissolved organic carbon production and transport within a constructed fen watershed in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region, Alberta, Canada' Journal of Hydrology 599, 126493-126493 , DOI

Lane M, Hanley M, Lunt P, Braungardt C, Knight M & Ellis J (2021) 'Addition of composted green waste and ericoid mycorrhizal fungi fails to facilitate establishment of Atlantic heathland species' Restoration Ecology , DOI Open access

Lunt P, Leigh J, McNeil S & Gibb M (2021) 'Using Dartmoor ponies in conservation grazing to reduce Molinia caerulea dominance and encourage germination of Calluna vulgaris in heathland vegetation on Dartmoor, UK' Conservation Evidence Journal 18, 25-30 , DOI Open access

Woodbridge J, Fyfe R, Smith D, Pelling R, de Vareilles A, Batchelor R, Bevan A & Davies A (2021) 'What drives biodiversity patterns? Using long-term multi-disciplinary data to discern centennial-scale change' Journal of Ecology 109, (3) 1396-1410 , DOI Open access


Davidson SJ, Goud EM, Franklin C, Nielsen SE & Strack M (2020) 'Seismic Line Disturbance Alters Soil Physical and Chemical Properties Across Boreal Forest and Peatland Soils' Frontiers in Earth Science 8, , DOI


Arndt KA, Santos MJ, Ustin S, Davidson SJ, Stow D, Oechel WC, Tran TTP, Graybill B & Zona D (2019) 'Arctic greening associated with lengthening growing seasons in Northern Alaska' Environmental Research Letters 14, (12) 125018-125018 , DOI

Davidson SJ, Elmes MC, Rogers H, Beest C, Petrone R, Price JS & Strack M (2019) 'Hydrogeologic setting overrides any influence of wildfire on pore water dissolved organic carbon concentration and quality at a boreal fen' Ecohydrology 12, (7) , DOI

Davidson SJ, Strack M, Bourbonniere RA & Waddington JM (2019) 'Controls on soil carbon dioxide and methane fluxes from a peat swamp vary by hydrogeomorphic setting' Ecohydrology 12, (8) , DOI

Davidson SJ, Van Beest C, Petrone R & Strack M (2019) 'Wildfire overrides hydrological controls on boreal peatland methane emissions' Biogeosciences 16, (13) 2651-2660 , DOI

Hill TCB, Hill GE, Brunning R, Banerjea RY, Fyfe RM, Hogg AG, Jones J, Perez M & Smith DN (2019) 'Glastonbury Lake Village revisited: a multi-proxy palaeoenvironmental investigation of an Iron Age wetland settlement' Journal of Wetland Archaeology , DOI Open access

Lunt PH, Fyfe RM & Tappin AD (2019) 'Role of recent climate change on carbon sequestration in peatland systems' Science of the Total Environment 667, 348-358 Author Site , DOI Open access


Gatis N, Luscombe D, Carless D, Parry L, Fyfe RM, Harrod T, Brazier RE & Anderson K (2018) 'Mapping upland peat depth using airborne radiometric and lidar survey data' Geoderma 335, 78-87 , DOI Open access

Woodbridge-Fisher J, Roberts CN & Fyfe RM (2018) 'Pan-Mediterranean Holocene vegetation and land-cover dynamics from synthesised pollen data' Journal of Biogeography 45, (9) , DOI Open access


Davidson S, Santos M, Sloan V, Reuss-Schmidt K, Phoenix G, Oechel W & Zona D (2017) 'Upscaling CH4 Fluxes Using High-Resolution Imagery in Arctic Tundra Ecosystems' Remote Sensing 9, (12) 1227-1227 , DOI

Fyfe RM, Ombashi H, Davies HJ & Head K (2017) 'Quantified moorland vegetation and assessment of the role of burning over the past five millennia' Journal of Vegetation Science 29, 393-403 , DOI Open access


Davidson S, Santos M, Sloan V, Watts J, Phoenix G, Oechel W & Zona D (2016) 'Mapping Arctic Tundra Vegetation Communities Using Field Spectroscopy and Multispectral Satellite Data in North Alaska, USA' Remote Sensing 8, (12) 978-978 , DOI

Davidson SJ, Sloan VL, Phoenix GK, Wagner R, Fisher JP, Oechel WC & Zona D (2016) 'Vegetation Type Dominates the Spatial Variability in CH4 Emissions Across Multiple Arctic Tundra Landscapes' Ecosystems 19, (6) 1116-1132 , DOI

Fyfe RM, Blackford JJ, Hardimann M, Hazell Z, MacLeod A, Perez M & Littlewood S (2016) 'The environment of the Whitehorse Hill cist' in Jones AM Preserved in the Peat An Extraordinary Bronze Age Burial on Whitehorse Hill, Dartmoor, and Its Wider Context Oxford Oxbow Books 158-181

Gearey B & Fyfe RM (2016) 'Peatlands as knowledge archives' in Bonn A; Allott T; Evans M; Joosten H; Stoneman R Peatland Restoration and Ecosystem Services Science, Policy and Practice Cambridge University Press 95-113

Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Mauquoy D, Roland TP, van Bellen S, Daley TJ, Davies D, Hughes PDM, Pancotto VO & Young GHF (2016) 'Measurements of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon isotope variability in Sphagnum moss along a micro-topographical gradient in a southern Patagonian peatland' JOURNAL OF QUATERNARY SCIENCE 31, (4) 426-435 Author Site , DOI Open access

van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Payne RJ, Roland TP, Hughes PDM, Daley TJ, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM & Pancotto VA (2016) 'An alternative approach to transfer functions? Testing the performance of a functional trait-based model for testate amoebae' Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 468, 173-183 , DOI Open access

Walker DA, Breen AL, Druckenmiller LA, Wirth LW, Fisher W, Raynolds MK, Šibík J, Walker MD, Hennekens S & Boggs K (2016) 'The Alaska Arctic Vegetation Archive (AVA-AK)' Phytocoenologia 46, (2) 221-229 , DOI


Charman DJ, Amesbury MJ, Hinchliffe W, Hughes PDM, Mallon G, Blake WH, Daley TJ, Gallego-Sala AV & Mauquoy D (2015) 'Drivers of Holocene peatland carbon accumulation across a climate gradient in northeastern North America' Quaternary Science Reviews 121, 110-119 , DOI

Davies H, Fyfe R & Charman D (2015) 'Does peatland drainage damage the palaeoecological record?' Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 221, 92-105 , DOI

Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Daley TJ, Hughes PDM, Kimak A, Levanic T, Mallon G, Mauquoy D, Robertson I & Roland TP (2015) 'Simultaneous determination of stable carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopes in cellulose' Anal Chem 87, (1) 376-380 Author Site , DOI

van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Hughes PDM, Roland TP, Daley TJ, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM, Pancotto VA & Payne RJ (2015) 'Late-Holocene climate dynamics recorded in the peat bogs of Tierra del Fuego, South America' The Holocene 26, (3) 489-501 , DOI Open access


Chambers FM, Brain SA, Mauquoy D, McCarroll J & Daley T (2014) 'The 'Little Ice Age' in the Southern Hemisphere in the context of the last 3000 years: Peat-based proxy-climate data from Tierra del Fuego' HOLOCENE 24, (12) 1649-1656 Author Site , DOI

Fyfe RM, Coombe R, Davies H & Parry L (2014) 'The importance of sub-peat carbon storage as shown by data from Dartmoor, UK' SOIL USE AND MANAGEMENT 30, (1) 23-31 Author Site , DOI Open access

Gearey BR, Fletcher W & Fyfe R (2014) 'Managing, Valuing, and Protecting Heritage Resources in the Twenty-First Century: Peatland Archaeology, the Ecosystem Services Framework, and the Kyoto Protocol' Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 16, (3) 236-244 , DOI

Van Bellen S, Mauquoy D, Payne RJ, Roland TP, Daley TJ, Hughes PDM, Loader NJ, Street-Perrott FA, Rice EM & Pancotto VA (2014) 'Testate amoebae as a proxy for reconstructing Holocene water table dynamics in southern Patagonian peat bogs' JOURNAL OF QUATERNARY SCIENCE 29, (5) 463-474 Author Site , DOI

Woodbridge J, Davies HJ, Blake WH & Fyfe RM (2014) 'Recent environmental change in an upland reservoir catchment: a palaeoecological perspective' JOURNAL OF PALEOLIMNOLOGY 52, (3) 229-244 Author Site , DOI


Daley TJ & Barber KE (2012) 'Multi-proxy Holocene palaeoclimate records from Walton Moss, northern England and Dosenmoor, northern Germany, assessed using three statistical approaches' QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL 268, 111-127 Author Site , DOI

Daley TJ, Mauquoy D, Chambers FM, Street-Perrott FA, Hughes PDM, Loader NJ, Roland TP, van Bellen S, Garcia-Meneses P & Lewin S (2012) 'Investigating late Holocene variations in hydroclimate and the stable isotope composition of precipitation using southern South American peatlands: an hypothesis' Climate of the Past 8, (5) 1457-1471 , DOI

Fyfe RM & Woodbridge J (2012) 'Differences in time and space in vegetation patterning: analysis of pollen data from Dartmoor, UK' Landscape Ecology 27, (5) 745-760 Author Site , DOI

Hughes PDM, Mallon G, Essex HJ, Amesbury MJ, Charman DJ, Blundell A, Chambers FM, Daley TJ & Mauquoy D (2012) 'The use of k-values to examine plant 'species signals' in a peat humification record from Newfoundland' QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL 268, 156-165 Author Site , DOI

Woodbridge J, Fyfe RM, Law B & Haworth Johns A (2012) 'A spatial approach to upland vegetation change and human impact: the Aber Valley, Snowdonia' Environmental Archaeology: the journal of human palaeoecology 17, 80-94 , DOI

Peatlands in the county of Connemara, Ireland