Name: Benjamin Freeman
Project title: Saving our lowland peat lands
Where based: Bangor University
Background: I studied Biology for my undergraduate degree at the University of St Andrews and obtained my MSc in Conservation and Land Management from Bangor University. I have always had an interest in the natural environment. In the summer of 2017, I worked to understand the behaviour of visitors around litter on Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa for my thesis. This gave me an insight into the key role people play in natural systems. These experiences have given me a strong interest in understanding natural resource management challenges; both the biophysical and social aspects of complex systems. Soil is the nexus of so many human-ecosystem interactions and I am excited to be able to study this in depth during my PhD.
The UK’s lowland peatland soils have been extensively drained for agriculture. The resulting mineralisation of carbon means that today only ~16% of the peat stocks from the 1850s remain. Lowland fens still hold 57% of England’s soil carbon but are mostly now net sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Much of this land remains under cultivation, including on wasted peatlands where soil organic matter is substantially depleted.
My research is looking to understand the options for sustainable management of lowland peatlands. I will be looking to uncover how different agronomic practices affect GHG emissions from peat soils. We aim to evaluate approaches with potential to reduce emissions whilst maintaining commercially sustainable yields and quality of horticultural crops. The fens are an economically valuable, working landscape and so we will be looking to understand the competing demands for ecosystem services (food production, carbon storage and flood regulation) and livelihoods that must be provided.
I am lucky to be working with G’s Fresh (https://www.gs-fresh.com/), who are a key stakeholder on the East Anglian fens and are the CASE-partner on my studentship. This provides an excellent opportunity to work directly with the agricultural industry to deliver exciting, impactful research with real world benefits.
You can find updates on my research at: