Carbon and peat dynamics

Moorland site in South Yorkshire subjected to managed burning where black carbon is stored in peat

Our overall aim in this project is to increase our understanding of soil carbon storage and dynamics in a diverse range of soil and Quaternary environments.

This includes understanding the processes controlling the presence and fate of black (pyrogenic) and inorganic carbon in soil systems.

We conduct field-based investigations, laboratory experiments and analyses to address specific research questions.

Black Carbon in urban soils

Particle of black carbon in a topsoil sample from Glasgow, coated in other soil minerals.

We are undertaking a study of urban soils to assess the quantities and forms of soil carbon and how these relate to one another.

Urban soils contain substantial quantities of black carbon resulting from the dispersal of coal waste.

Black carbon is more recalcitrant than other forms of soil carbon and there is increasing interest in its use for mitigating climate change.

Black carbon in upland peat environments

The practice of moorland burning produces black carbon which is preserved in peat.

There is considerable interest on the impacts of burning on carbon storage in upland environments and the processes affecting the fate of black carbon.

We are studying these processes in an upland blanket peat of the Peak District, South Yorkshire.

We are also testing novel methods for the analysis of black carbon in soils and reservoir sediments.

Pedogenic carbon formation in soil

An image of needle-like (micrometer scale) pedogenic calcium carbonates formed in the clay topsoil of Nottinghamshire, England

Most research in relation to the terrestrial carbon cycle and climate change has focused on the organic carbon fraction of the soil.

Soil carbon is also present as inorganic carbon, occurring as primary(lithogenic) carbonate minerals derived from the bedrock, and secondary (pedogenic) carbonate minerals formed in situ through inorganic and biogenic soil reactions.

This inorganic carbonate may persist, as testified to by the presence of similar calcrete/rhizocrete mineralisation preserved in Quaternary palaeosoils, and may become increasingly important if climate change leads to drier conditions and greater evaporation from the soil.

In collaboration with university partners, we are studying the formation and dynamics of pedogenic carbonates in soils, particularly at the fungal hypha-soil interface.