CLAD: Carbon Landscapes And Drainage

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Geographical & Earth Sciences


This project aims to improve understanding and management of parts of the U.K. which store significant amounts of carbon, peatlands. Peat contains about 45-60% of its weight as carbon. UK peatlands contain about as much carbon as is produced by fossil fuel burning in the UK for the next 35 years at current rates. Carbon is stored in peat in the remains of plants which do not fully decompose, but some is lost in a variety of ways including as carbon dioxide and methane gas. A significant proportion of carbon is also lost as dissolved organic carbon, which is flushed into streams and rivers giving peaty water its distinctive brown colour. Eroding peat can be lost to the rivers are particulate matter. Both dissolved and particulate carbon can be broken down in the water and released as carbon dioxide, meaning that these water bodies can be significant sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. It is known that human disturbance to peatlands e.g. clear felling of forestry, can significantly increase the rate at which carbon is lost to the rivers. Currently peatlands in the UK are managed for aesthetic, recreational, and commercial activities e.g. the isolated and windy environment found in many peatland areas offers a suitable location for windfarm developments. This type of development is probably the most important, large-scale, human disturbance to peatlands in recent history. Although in the longer terms, this loss is offset by the carbon dioxide saved in non-fossil fuel energy generation, in the short term digging the holes needed to place the turbines, building access roads and the clearance of forestry can all lead to increases in the amounts of carbon lost to drainage systems. Whether these losses to drainage systems are environmentally acceptable or not is not currently a consideration of those responsible for approving and overseeing the development. Given their importance as 'carbon landscapes', it is surprising that peatlands are not managed for one of their most important functions, carbon storage. We expect this, and the need to defined an ecologically acceptable carbon flow, to change in the coming years and legislation to be passed which will require this to be included in management plans and the environmental impact assessments required for developments on peatlands. One way in which it is easy to assess loss of carbon from peatlands is by monitoring export of dissolved and particulate carbon in the peatland drainage systems. Researchers know quite a lot about how carbon is lost from peatlands to rivers, and the PIs of this bid, know quite a lot about how windfarms impact on catchment drainage. But this information has not yet been synthesised for those with a responsibility for peatlands. We propose to change this through setting up on a knowledge exchange network, using as a learning vehicle, consideration of the impact of windfarm disturbance on carbon landscapes, particularly drainage systems. We will set up a network of stakeholders with interests in peatland management, research and development. This will allow the exchange of knowledge between academics on the cutting edge of research into carbon losses from peatlands and managers and developers concerned with the day-to-day activities pursued within them. We will run workshops to demonstrate and teach the latest techniques for monitoring carbon losses from peatlands via aquatic pathways. We will offer t for secondment, allowing responsive interaction with professionals concerned with carbon management in carbon landscapes and drainage systems. We will harness collective network knowledge to produce a set of guidelines concerning the management of peatlands on drainage systems. This project will be a significant step towards arming professional managers and researchers with the up-to-date understanding, techniques and tools needed to manage the peatland carbon cycle according to current best practise.
Title Flux chamber 
Description I have been working with the artist Kate Foster ( to convey to the public that rivers degas CO2 to the atmosphere and how dissolved organic C moves in and is carried by rivers in dissolved form. We first created a field-based exhibition for an Environmental Arts Festival in 2015 ( and this has since expanded into the publication of a small booklet for an artists Bookmarket which took place in Edinburgh 24/25 February ( The booklet is now being sent to Geobus, who are helping with the Pathways to Impact on the fluvial karst grant and want to consider if it can be used in the art school curriculum. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact I cannot tell as am not in a position to follow through on impact but the artist will feed back to me over time. 
Description This was a KE grant and created a network that came together to understand better how carbon loss from landscapes can be observed in drainage systems. In terms of the KE we found there was considerable interest from the community and that CLAD played a valued role in acting as this KE interface both nationally and internationally. For example:
1. We received three invitations to Malayasia to explain our knowledge exchange approach to stakeholders of tropical peatlands, including those promoting and opposing palm oil development for bioenergy. This also supported formalising these discussions through a workshop, which has now been formalised in a paper (Padfield et al, 2013, see publications.
2. Supporting multinational companies to implement carbon management in their windfarm habitat management plans, either through informal advice such as interactions or through more formal arrangements. For example:
a. SSER funded 50% of the PhD student June 2010-Dec 2013. The remaining funding came from University funds. Ben Smith, the PhD student is cosupervised by Waldron and Gilvear and Jane MacDonald, environmental manager of SSER for onshore wind.
b. Scottish Power funded a PhD student to research C export from Areclough windfarm 2009-13, cosupervised by PIs Gilvear and Grieve.
3. Giving expert advice on windfarms to non-academic peatland conservation bodies: CLAD was invited to submit comment to the IUCN Commission on peatland conservation.
2017 updates are that I have now been commissioned
a) to undertake research for Construction Innovation Scotland on the environmental impacts of repowering wind farms i.e. the removal of turbines for replacement with larger turbines. The stakeholders here are SEPA and SNH who are co-funding some of this research.
b) to undertake research for Scottish Water on what research has been done to date on how catchment response and management affect C loading to freshwaters. They want an overview of the field to assess how best to commission new research that does not repeat existing research.

Recently we have published a paper that arose from CLAD international visit to Malaysia to undertake training on water table management, and in doing this we undertook some skills development fieldwork with Malaysian team members. This paper shows that gas that emitted from drained peatlands (for oil palm or drainage ditches) is centuries to millenia old.
Exploitation Route The understanding of windfarm impact on drainage water is particularly important to catchment managers e.g. water companies. So the 2017 update b above.
Sectors Environment

Description We hosted and facilitated workshops to explain to stakeholders how the C payback calculator for windfarms operate and to allow them to feedback into revised beta versions of the C payback calculator before it was published. This resulted in two CLAD PIs becoming co-authors on the latest version of the calculator Our efforts to integrate industry with academia were recognised by the Scottish Government and they subsequently commissioned an updated version of the C calculator that incoroprated industry and other agency concerns. CLAS is still having impact: I I recently-published report I led on sustainable (for the environment) repowering of onshore wind farms. I believe my invite to do was because I am recognised as being expert here through the impact the KE network CLAD (Carbon Landscapes and Drainage), had and continues to do so. On the cover page of the report is the CLAD logo. The report had coauthors from industry and regulators, and was funded by Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (as considered foundation design) as they could match industry investment. It has a particularly focus on Scotland as onshore wind is predominantly on peat, but is relevant to wind farm repowering globally. The report generates some broadsheet press (Times, very poor) and Glasgow Herald (good) and some other media coverage below. I also promoted it through UKERC. I used the Open Science Framework to generate a project site as this is neutral to any co-author and also generates a doi so I can track use of the report. The report can be accessed here. Since publication at the end of November it has had 172 downloads: Waldron S, Smith J, Taylor K, McGinnes C, Roberts N and McCallum D (2018) Repowering onshore wind farms: a technical and environmental exploration of foundation reuse. DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/SCZDE There is now a new publication stemming from fieldwork with Malaysian colleagues from when we visited there to carry out field training. This show centuries to millenia old CO2 is lost from drains in logged swamp forest and oil palm plantations.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Construction,Energy,Environment
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services