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School of Geography

Professor Lisa Belyea, BSc Hons (Carleton), MSc (Waterloo), PhD (London)


Professor of Biogeosciences

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 2781
Room Number: Geography Building, Room 214


My research focusses on understanding how and why ecosystems change, over timescales ranging from days to thousands of years. I am especially interested in how wetland development and carbon cycling is controlled by complex interactions between plants, soils and water. I take a systems approach to my research and combine empirical field and laboratory studies with process-based and statistical modelling.

Some recent publications

  • Ritson, J.P, Alderson, D.M., Robinson, C.H. ... Belyea, L.R., ... (2020) Towards a microbial process-based understanding of the resilience of peatland ecosystem service provisioning - A research agenda. Science of the Total Environment 759, 143467. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.143467.
  • Stanley, K.M., Heppell, C.M., Belyea, L.R., Baird, A.J., and Field, R.H. (2019) The importance of methane ebullition in floodplain fens. Journal of Geophysical Research - Biogeosciences 124(7):1750-1763. doi: 10.1029/2018JG004902.
  • Weston, D.J., Turetsky, M.R., Johnson, M.G., ...  Belyea, L.R. ... (2018) The Sphagnome Project: enabling ecological and evolutionary insights through a genus-level sequencing project. New Phytologist 217, 16-25. doi: 10.1111/nph.14860.

  • Morris, P.J., Baird, A.J., and Belyea, L.R. (2015) Bridging the gap between models and measurements of peat hydraulic conductivity. Water Resources Research 51, 5353-5364. doi: 10.1002/2015WR017264.
  • Loisel, J., Yu, Z., Beilman, D.W., ... Belyea, L.R., ... (2014) A synthesis of existing data for northern peatland soil properties and Holocene carbon and nitrogen accumulation. The Holocene doi: 10.1177/0959683614538073.


Currently, I teach the following modules

Nature-based Climate Solutions (GEG6232 / GEG6232P)

To what extent can climate change be mitigated by improved stewardship of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems? In this module, we examine how conservation, restoration and improved management of ecosystems can increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. We evaluate a range of ¿natural climate solutions¿ (NCS) for their feasibility, cost-effectiveness, environmental co-benefits and climate mitigation potential. You will take an active approach to learning through participation in lectures, small-group discussions and a non-residential field trip.

Environmental Research Methods (GEG5215)

This module provides training in research techniques for physical geography and environmental science students, building upon skills acquired in GEG4004 Research Methods for Geographers and Environmental Scientists and GEG4210 Getting Started in Geography and Environmental Science. All students will receive training in designing surveys and experiments, working with environmental data and carrying out fieldwork. They will also select from a portfolio of ¿short course options¿ providing opportunities to develop further their lab or data analysis skills. Delivery will typically involve laboratory, computing and/or fieldwork.

I also contribute to several other modules, including first- and second-year undergraduate tutorials and I supervise final-year undergraduate and Masters dissertations.


Research Interests:

Current research projects:


Risk and uncertainty in peatland carbon emissions

Peatlands are vulnerable to rapid climate change and to disturbances such as wildfire and drainage, with the risk that their huge carbon stocks could be released to the atmosphere very rapidly, further accelerating global warming. To counteract this threat, government, environmental organisations and industry are investing in climate actions to protect undisturbed peatlands and to restore those that have been damaged by human activities such as drainage and afforestation. At present, there is large uncertainty on future peatland carbon emissions and on the potential benefits of conservation and restoration activities.

This research draws together quantitative, semi-quantitative and qualitative information on peatlands and their carbon emissions to scope a high-level Bayesian network. The network will sketch out how government policy, specific management interventions and natural mechanisms of resilience are linked to peatland carbon emissions via causal relationships. This causal knowledge will be based on numerical modelling, scientific understanding of peatland functioning and expert advice on management activities and socio-economic factors. By integrating these different types of knowledge, this 'smart-data' approach should lead to better predictive models that can accurately predict future peatland carbon emissions and the benefits of specific policies and interventions.

Collaboration: Peter Levy and Carole Helfter (CEH Edinburgh); Norman Fenton (QMUL / Alan Turing Institute); Emily Lines (now Cambridge University); Nikesh Narayan (now Met Office)

Funding: Data Science for Science programme, Alan Turing Institute

Assessing carbon stocks and greenhouse gas emissions in lowland peatlands

Lowland peatlands have been subject to intense human disturbance and land management leading to depletion of their carbon stocks and continuous release of large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These impacts are difficult to quantify, because direct measurements of carbon stocks and rates of carbon loss or sequestration from these systems are sparse.

This research focusses on the Broads peatlands of eastern England, collating and compiling diverse georeferenced datasets with the aim of quantifying existing carbon stocks and inferring current rates of carbon loss or sequestration. The results should improve the evidence base on which policymakers and local land-managers make decisions on the management of lowland peats, allowing them to balance the role of peatlands in regulating greenhouse gas emissions against the many other ecosystem services they provide.

Collaboration: Kate Heppell and Alex Henshaw (QMUL); Angela Bartlett (King's College London); Andrea Kelly (Broads Authority)

Funding: sub-contract to CANAPE EU Interreg project, via Broads Authority


A list of publications is available here. You can also view my online profiles at ResearcherID  and Google Scholar. E-prints of most of the articles are available by request.


The School of Geography offers a MSc in Environmental Science by Research - further details are here. Opportunities for PhD research in the School of Geography can be found here. Please note that you must agree a project with a prospective supervisor before applying for either a PhD or a MSc by Research. I am interested to hear from high-achieving students with ideas for projects that align with my research interests.

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